All posts by BonWagner

Asterisk

For my next poem I thought I’d employ an allusion to the anthems of love, grace, and forgiveness by the rock band U2
But I hesitated
Fearing that 100 years from now
Or thereabouts
The text would require
An asterisk

To explain the band

As if.

As if I won’t be the one crying for that asterisk: clawing out the entrails of my competition, hoping against reasonable hope that I prevail and share a footer with Larry Mullen, Junior.

As if.

As if we’d ever occupy – much less use – the same bathroom
As if my summit won’t be the gutter-swamp of some marginalia
The pinnacle of my legacy some overeager grad student’s hard fought effort to illuminate the “forgotten history of early 21st Century American Verse”

My therapist says I’m too hard on myself

As if.

As if this irrelevance against the vast sweep of a universe I don’t understand isn’t real
As if my turbulence this quiet New Year’s Day isn’t somehow encouraged by the throbbing drumbeat of “New Year’s Day”*
seeping through the thin walls of this ghastly apartment

*a 1983 song by an Irish band called U2, who were once considered quite popular

IMG_1699

On Language and Parenthood (aka We Speak Our Words Mostly Without Forethought But They Often Land Like The Most Sophisticated War Plans Of Our Species’ Most Strategically Brilliant Military Minds)

Okay let’s pay attention for a moment
Let’s consider how context can rapidly evolve something said simply from plain and perfunctory to pure puncturing pain
Listen!
And let’s take a quick look in degrees
Let’s say three
Three degrees of context
(skipping over some nuances, sure, but goddammit we only have so much time and space here):

“Okay, bye!”

That phrase.
Two words.
Not much to unpack , right?
Wrong!
Dead wrong.
You couldn’t be more wrong.

Let’s try it again, goddammit:

“Okay, bye!”

  • hurts little and actually feels efficient when a work colleague says so at the natural conclusion of a yet another content-filled conference call
  • humiliates and generates instantaneous cheek-flushing when a woman says so to the young man enamored of her and in the immediate aftermath of his incoherent stumbling to find the words that will finally reveal his intrinsic handsomeness and star quality
  • h-bombs the father’s aging but still child-like heart when the son says so, gathered among his friends, after the dad joke is made, ham-handedly sure, but actually quite funny to the now faltering father walking away wounded in his withering heart, head hung, stunned

Life is context
And adjusting to it.
Can you stay true and you in each new scene?
Can you, maggot?
(I’m not a drill sergeant but goddammit I dreamed I would be!
But I can’t be
I just can’t
These kids are so darn cute!)

IMG_3492

I Look Good

I got ya on my mind
Ya always been so fine
Better drain that wine, boy, ’cause
I look good
I look good
I look good

I Fit-Bit off my lipids
Now my jeans be fitted
Don’t be so insipid, boy, ’cause
I look good
I look good
I look good

I find your hand
And boy we dance
And find romance
For the first time
Is this the sign?
Have we been blind
All this time
All this time
For the first time

And damn
Goddamn
Hot Damn!
I look good
I look good
I look good

IMG_3327

Letter to the neighborhood conspiracist following an unsurprisingly heated and useless yammer session.

Dear Steve,

To summarize the thoughts I shared with you this morning over our heaping trash and virtue-signalling recycle bins (as you so cynically dubbed them):

The conspiracy theorist is problematic not because rational people believe conspiracies don’t actually exist, he’s problematic because he cannot offer rational people any persuasive evidence that confirms his often extravagant fever-dreams. He is no detective, but simply a self-indulgent and self-imposed outcast in love with his own fantasies and blind to basic reality and reason.

Everyone knows the truth, except you, Steve. It’s too bad you missed that day at school.

Cordially yours,

Bon

IMG_9834

I See You’re Speaking At (Insert Name Of Conference Here). May I Introduce Myself After Your Talk?

When I encounter you in this moment you’ve imagined but are surprisingly unprepared for, the moment your remarks are done, when you’re now eye to eye with me and those who scheduled this time to edify ourselves, you are now genuinely trying to hear my gentle inquiry and probing of your generally sane yet safely anodyne advice, I’m aware I am seeing signs of sorrow in the crease around your eyes as they squint to quell the mounting pressure of the sadness in your soul, the endless years enduring your parents’ neglect and disapproval and disappointment.

We meet at this conference and, now the encounter is occurring, you find this is what surprises you, I surmise: the thing you’ve thought about and prepared for for so many dreaming hours is taking its place in history and the sadness is telling you the history is passing you by, the great hope so surprisingly and swiftly squandered, just as mommy and daddy had feared.

I admired the you up on that dais moments ago and I must say I admire the you here now in this moment too for fighting the good fight, the naive and losing fight to put yourself outside of your own humanness and raise yourself even ever so slightly, ever so momentarily above the fray away from the riff raff and the smells – you’re judgemental, sure – but you’re trying to be good – as we stand this same ground and, yes, now you’ve found it, there it is now, you enter the realm of your more prepared remarks and the sorrow signs disappear and we exchange the time honored banalities and we feel certain we have done well, the registration fee worth every labor, and we exchange cards and head separately for the open bar.

This is a highlight moment in our careers one perhaps we’ll write about after fielding countless requests for book-length insights and wisdom, but that fate is yet to be determined, though I clearly imagine that glory-filled future as I awkwardly wave ta-ta from across the crowded lounge clutching the awkward glass of Chardonnay, another day’s work done.

IMG_9778

Betsy? Dolly. Mmm Hmm. We Need To Talk.

And still you allow the wild to awake, take fire, and break free
You still listen for the chatter of the ancient trees gossiping secrets of freedoms dreamed
You still believe the hope of these towering hills and blinding plains, the lie of infinite rains
You still swim the chaos of rapid waters forsaking the eddies, the ease, the still pools of disease

And still

And still
You’ve become this bloated butterball baking
Basted brightly in cortisol tattoos
And Schadenfreude shampoos
Laboring place to place
A slower and slower pace
Agony in your face
Cowering against connections
Ignoring local elections
Seeking advantage and protection
To mock and tweak
The others you seek
To re-tweak, re-Tweet,
Fellow-travelers naive as thee, judging them, my phrasing, and me

I worry for your heart
Your literal and figurative heart
America

And still
Here I sit
You remind me
This armchair pundit opining
This internet poet resigning
To soft wrinkles, a stiff spine
A graceless and sad decline
Still overwriting every goddmamn line

True
True, I admit
That’s it, that’s it
I too
I too am
Complicit

And still
I do
I do still worry
I still worry for you
My fattened flailing friend
My family
My blood
My soul
My soil
Coiled to bite
Too spoiled to fight
Happy Birthday goodnight
Happy Birthday goodnight

IMG_9861

Saturday’s Song

I feel gorgeous, I feel stupid
I’ve just made out with Cupid

His red lips sting so sweet, so sore
But I’m telling ya, that demi-god is a hot-bod bore

Standing in my socks and waiting
I thought he’d be more intoxicating

“Fall into my eyes,” he groans, “Gaze, gaze deep.”
Twists his face, barely moans, and yes falls fast, fast asleep

I’ve wasted dinner and an hour!
I’m a sinner, I need a shower

So gorgeous
So stupid
So stupid
But gorgeous, believe it
Take it in, receive it

I compel you don’t I
I compel your third eye
To open
To cry
To cry

I feel gorgeous
I feel stupid
Sing it again
Loop it
Loop it
Gorgeous
Stupid
Gorgeous
Stupid
Gorgeous, stupid

IMG_3867

Aging Actor Agonizing As Again He Faces His Familiar Face In The Glowing Glass Of An Underground Dressing Room Somewhere Out There Tonight

Nightly I face thee to efface me
My most dear
My most somber sober friend

Hear me now
You
Who only live in light

The self is illusion
Mine, an allusion to an imagined self we collude to enjoy and endure for an hour or more
So many allusions
So many selves
So many concocted lifetimes
So many carefully crafted entanglements, each anxiety endlessly examined and fondled and absorbed and displayed
So. Much. Makeup.

It is a tedious life

The best of us are empty:
Tin barrels played upon by expert hands
Begging for meaning
Begging for another goddamned job
Begging pleas: “oh, please
Let me be seen
again and again”

There is worth, mind you, but only briefly in that moment we momentarily share, in the allusion to the unwieldy illusion we unendingly share
There is worth
Then
But soon we bow and the magic swells and breaks and the breakdown begins anew

Again to seek our mark
Find our light
Call our agent
And hope for the unwritten cue

React and repeat
React and repeat
Reacting, repeating

Tedium

Ah, mon dieu, it’s time,
Yes, the time has come
Places, everyone

Inhale
Lights out
Powder and disappear

IMG_9551

Like So, a prose poem for lovers of all ages but particularly lovers in their mid to late 20s in major American metropolis centers

And baby like so we enter your sphere of sadness and like so we enter mine and acquiesce and allow the sorrow to break us and break us to silence and like so baby we hold each other in our naked embrace of warm damp skin after our love making is done damn it’s done and through your window we float above the jeweled city lights you and me against the world baby floating here where they can’t touch us or know us as we know each other in this warm cradle safe and removed from the unconscious beehive below us below us baby baby mine so like so we smile and sink in sink in deep and secure in our smug sweaty glow deep in our shared sorrow aching so like so like a cobalt hued river flowing placid still like liquid glass through the carved and carving caverns of our head heart and heavy souls and like so sleep sleep darling in our naked nest our sobbing cocoon until the morning comes begging again for light and life and let us begin again begin again begging again to be like so.

IMG_9497

Love In The Present Epoch

What’s happening with me?
Maybe it’s you, do you feel it too, what’s happening with you?
Maybe it’s the artisanal wine we’ve sipped, so so good, so
Satisfying inside and so affordable too?
Maybe it’s this rain and the song that Spotify just chose?

I’ve truly never felt this close with someone, it’s like the lines have blurred
Our merging hearts caressing
You and I sitting here, legs folded, facing one another
You leaning in to me
Our foreheads touch softly, just enough so that I encounter the strength and armor of your skull but also the kindness of your mind
And perhaps your soul
Each message you’re sending so soft and clear and unique to you yet classic like memes passed down from the ancients
Our faces aglow

Gosh, it’s amazing to me
I’ve never texted like this before
I pray to some all-knowing all-powerful intelligence to let this moment never end and our batteries never die and our wifi never hiccup and our thumbs never tire

Your texts are so intimate tonight
Oh damn, that emoji really turns me on, I’m typing so fast

IMG_0450