"In the Hopeful Future," "Keats Isn't the Problem," and "Bowie Second Line"

In the Hopeful Future

—for Vincent Cellucci

 

when I picture you at a party
you are arriving
 

scraping a foot on the front step
you kick caked mud
from the toe of your retro Jordan’s
on the welcome mat
whisper the word Jump
under your breath
 

domesticated as the dozen carnations
you carry where you used to carry 
a dozen dead elephants
inside a dozen dead snakes
 

you pat your pockets
as if you never left home
feel for your phone and keys
your fire hydrant heart
the memory of your younger face
reflected in a red motorcycle
passing you by
 

what a pouring down outside
memory puddles behind you
what the hammer and hot blade of it
the chain and anvil of it
the devil and lesser devil of it
 

somehow you ended up on this porch
you say to yourself
the way a river remembers
the only path is to the sea it ends in
then ring the doorbell
 

I can’t remember half
of anything
I can remember


 

Keats Isn’t the Problem

             is not the t-shirt shot
 

from the cannon
 

but I wanted to say— Thanks,
 

Custom Ink!
 

and have it on Brett’s doorstep
before Brett
could canonize
 

          the masses meaningful
 

without them knowing
anything
ever happened
 

I’m feeling the right costume
cape and smile
 

could really move
the books
 

                          off the shelf
 

but then again
the TV poet on Transparent
 

just said lostness
 

and everyone
 

                             applauded
 

maybe my gifts are best given
                     in another world
 

              where we ain’t afraid
 

                          of no ghosts
 

where Brett tells a moving story
                       

             the one we’ve all heard   
                the one we’ve all told
 

the one with the books and not
all of them can go
the one when the move
 

                           from uptown
to tracks
 

really gets clackin
 

the one when every time Brett
says
to Kamenetz
 

            Keats isn’t the problem
 

something meaningful happens


 

Bowie Second Line

hard to say if we both believed
Bowie died for our sins

when the woman
who had been heavy-breathing   
her wild mom-breath

into the kitchen cabinets
all morning

came into the living room
wearing her best Bowie dress 
to find me uncertain

if a couch is a sleeping baby
or a sleeping baby a couch

either way it seemed
reason enough to call for a sitter
either way something dead

inside us was squirming
in its heavy sleep

either way the New Orleans sky
hung above
the crowd in the Quarter

like a sheet slowly falling
over a sleeping baby  


 

These selections are from Meaningful Poems, a forthcoming collaboration with Brett Evans.

 

 

Christopher Shipman is the author of Keats is Not the Problem (Lavender Ink), co-authored with Brett Evans, and The Movie My Murderer Makes Season II (The Cupboard). Shipman’s work appears in journals such as Cimarron Review, PANK, Pedestal, Plume, Salt Hill, So and So, Spork Press, and TENDERLOIN, among many others. His poem, "The Three-Year Crossing," was a winner of the 2015 Motionpoems Big Bridges prize, judged by Alice Quinn. A Ship on the Line (2015), co-authored with Vincent Cellucci, was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award. Shipman lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, where he teaches literature at New Garden Friends School and dances to the Boss with his four-year-old daughter on his shoulders. He recommends Sandy Hook Promise.

 

Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Tuesday, July 19, 2016 - 23:58