Three poems #2

In de aanloop naar Geen Daden Maar Woorden Festival publiceren we teksten van & over de optredende artiesten. Vandaag: drie gedichten van Erika Meitner.


And the neighbor’s daughter shows my son
the way her father let her hold his gun,

with bullets in it.  She was on Adderall,
and now Ritalin, and they’re only in

Kindergarten but my son doesn’t much
like her—the way she brags and lies

and tries to destroy the plants or bugs
around our house, which is the bus stop,

so we head out each morning in our
pajamas, clutching coffee mugs, to wait.

The engine of the bus is huffing,
unmistakable, and we can all hear it

before its yellow nose comes around
the bend.  The kids climb the high steps

like they’re scaling a great peak.
I can see my son fling his body

into a seat; he waves from the window
while Sarah makes her way to her

mandated spot behind the driver,
who waves to us too, then pulls the lever

to shut the doors and heads down Heartwood
Crossing, though the sign says Xing

as the whole name won’t fit.  This cross-
hatch, this target; X marks the spot

like those yellow and black novelty
signs:  Moose Xing, Gator Xing,

Sasquatch Xing.  My son loves to watch
the show Finding Bigfoot, where

a research team goes to Rhode Island,
Alaska, New York, to investigate

a recent spike in Squatch sightings.
Each episode is exactly the same,

save for the location:  they go out
as a team one night to look for bigfoot,

call for him, and find signs.  Next,
they have a town hall meeting

to discuss sightings with residents
who tell stories, which they recreate

using a giant guy named Bobo as a stand-in,
and they always come to the conclusion

that the resident did see a bigfoot—
that bigfoot could definitely live in

____________.  We live in blank.
Sarah’s mother threw her father out

for keeping a loaded Uzi on the floor
of their garage.  When Sarah aims,

with her fingers, at the empty birds’ nests
in the eaves of our porch, I wait for her

to say bang, but instead she repeats
it had bullets in it, and there’s the bus

wheezing around the bend again,
yellow as a road sign, a daffodil,

a stretch of CAUTION tape.

(Eerder gepubliceerd in: Shenandoah: The Washington & Lee University Review 63.2, 2014)

Miracle Blanket

My mother calls it
that straitjacket.
Do you still put
the baby to sleep
in that straitjacket?
she asks, and I say
Mom, you mean
the miracle blanket?
and she says yes,
the straitjacket,
and I have to
admit she’s right,
that it looks
like a straitjacket
for babies, especially
in the “natural” color
which resembles a tortilla
so when he’s wrapped
the baby seems like a
burrito with a head,
and some nights
the straitjacket
helps him sleep, but
some nights
it does not
though we follow
and we shush and
swing the baby
wrapped tight
in his straitjacket,
but he screams and
won’t go down,
which is what we
call sleep now—
going down, as if he’s
drowning in his
straitjacket at 3am
in our bedroom
and we want him
to drown—we’ll do
anything to make him
go down, even pray.
Nicholas of Tolentino,
the patron saint
of babies, is said
to have resurrected
over 100 dead children
including several
who had drowned
together.  He always
told those he helped
to say nothing of this.
Holy innocence, my son
in his miracle blanket
is sleeping.  O faithful
and glorious martyr,
say nothing of this.

(uit: Ideal Cities, Harper Perennial, 2010)


God Bless America says the bumper sticker on the racer-red
Rascal scooter that accidentally cuts me off in the Walmart parking lot
after a guy in a tricked out jeep with rims like chrome pinwheels tries
to pick me up by honking, all before I make it past the automatic doors
waiting to accept my unwashed hair, my flip-flops, my lounge pants.

The old man on the scooter waves, sports a straw boater banded in blue & white,
and may or may not be the official greeter, but everyone here sure is friendly—
even the faces of plastic bags, which wink yellow and crinkle with kindness,
sound like applause when they brush the legs of shoppers carrying them
to their cars.  In Port Charlotte, a woman’s body was found in a Jetta

in a Walmart Parking lot.  In a Walmart parking lot in Springfield,
a macaque monkey named Charlie attacked an eight year-old girl.
I am a Walmart shopper, a tract-house dweller—the developments
you can see clearly from every highway in America that’s not jammed up
on farmland or pinned in by mountains.  I park my car at a slant in the lot,

hugged tight by my neighbors’ pickups.  I drive my enormous cart
through the aisles and fill it with Pampers, tube socks, juice boxes, fruit.
In the parking lot of the McAllen Walmart, a woman tried to sell six
Bengal Tiger cubs to a group of Mexican day laborers.  A man carjacked
a woman in the parking lot of the West Mifflin Walmart, then ran

under a bridge and disappeared.  Which is to say that the world
we expect to see looks hewn from wood, is maybe two lanes wide,
has readily identifiable produce, and the one we’ve got has jackknifed itself
on the side of the interstate and keeps skidding. The one we’ve got has clouds
traveling so fast across the sky it’s like they’re tied to an electric current.

But electricity is the same for everybody. It comes in the top of your head
and goes out your shoes, which will walk through these automatic doors.
In the Corbin Walmart parking lot a woman with a small amount of cash
was arrested for getting in and out of trucks.  A man stepped out of his car
in the Columbus Walmart parking lot, and shot himself.  I get in the checkout line

behind a lighted number on a pole.  The man in front of me jangles coins
in his pocket, rocks back and forth on his heels.  The girl in front of him
carefully peels four moist dimes from her palm to pay for a small container
of honey-mustard dipping sauce.  In the parking lot of the LaFayette Walmart,
grandparents left their disabled 2 year-old grandson sitting in a shopping cart

and drove away.  Employees in the parking lot at the La Grange Walmart
found a box containing seven abandoned kittens.  I am not a Christian or
prone to idioms, but when the cashier says she is grateful for small mercies,
I nod in assent.  Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison.  The Latin root of mercy
means price paid, wages, merchandise, though now we use it as

compassion shown to a person in a position of powerlessness,
and sometimes forgiveness towards a person with no right
to claim it.  God is merciful and gracious, but not just.
In the Walmart parking lot in Stockton, a man considered armed
and dangerous attacked his wife, beating her unconscious.

A couple tried to sell their 6-month-old for twenty-five bucks
to buy meth in the Salinas Walmart parking lot.  We who are in danger,
remember:  mercy has a human heart.  Mercy with her tender mitigations,
slow to anger and great in lovingkindness, with her blue employee’s smock
emblazoned with How may I help you?  Someone in this place have mercy on us.

(uit: Copia, BOA Editions, 2014)

Erika Meitner komt uit New York. Ze behaalde haar master in Creatief Schrijven in 2001 aan de University of Virginia. Met haar debuutbundel Inventory at the All-Night Drugstore won Erika in 2002 de Robert Dana-Anhinga Prize voor poëzie. Haar poëzie wordt vaak beschreven als gevat en streetwise, het hedendaagse leven staat centraal in de gedichten. Erika’s laatste gedichtenbundel, Copia uit 2014 behandelt het commercialisme en de Amerikaanse consumptiesamenleving.

Tijdens GDMW draagt ze voor en wordt ze geïnterviewd door Ellen Deckwitz.

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