The Adjunct Commuter
I’m waiting for the bus and imagine the street is made
of money, but it’s not the type of money accepted on this
planet or any planet. Sometimes I’m waiting for the bus
and I see the word “new” projected on people’s faces, but
not my own. I am no longer new. What are you if you
aren’t new? The bus is on the left side, and I am on the right.
I am waiting for the bus, but I am only wearing my Underroos
and my stuffed cat can’t get on the bus because she doesn’t
have a MetroCard, and I am trying to pay the fare with a wallet
full of pigeon blood. It multiplies as it spills through the center
lane of the empty bus, foaming mouths at the edges of
bloody waves. My clones wear animal masks: lions, flamingo,
toad, while we wait for the bus. The bus is inside my skin
riding my spine. None of us are small enough to get inside it.
I don’t care where the bus is going anymore, but I want to be on it.
Have you ever kissed an august Buddha in the marsupial pouch
of a bus? It feels like being the soul of oatmeal, but better.
Everyone I have ever loved is on that bus. They are going to
a protest, but nobody remembers what the issue is, or the issue
keeps changing like the words on the signs: the name of
the candidate or the name of the war. We are going
to the march because we want to be together, but aren’t
together. We are waiting for different buses that don’t arrive.
We are waiting for a bus from inside an iceberg, and before we can
get on the bus, the icebergs have to melt. We want them to melt
because we haven’t had sex in 24 and a half days, or because
we like to eat grass-fed lamb burgers in the back of a rhinestone
stretch limousine that circles Alaska before we can even find
the bus stop. It’s possible I fell asleep and we are all melting
icebergs waiting for the bus, flooding Foster Avenue with salt water
and half-frozen chunks of displaced whale spirits. One day I am waiting
so long for the bus that I forget that I am waiting for a bus, and find
myself inventing music, dairy-free béchamel and urban tetherball.
They crown me the biggest shark in the biggest city of the universe,
and I am on every TV channel, big toothed grinning like I’m the host
or something, but nobody watches tv anymore. Everyone would
rather be writing post-linguistic poetry or studying artisanal
adzuki bean canning. If a woman smiles on a TV set and nobody
watches yadda yadda, you know. So, I go back to my bus stop,
remember I should have been waiting for the bus. I enjoy waiting
for busses. I’m a bus waiter. There’s beauty in waiting for the bus.
The Adjunct Commuter—A Cento
Over the shrill echoes,
I saw the bus.
Now-ness and then-ness.
A thud. A thump.
Out of the ruins of the clock:
a freight train in your chest,
giddy mishaps of blackness.
Submission to the submachine,
the wind’s dramatic flesh.
Air in Air. I clomp clomp.
Wheels are inside me thundering.
Minutes shine at the tips of branches.
Hair caught on a bus thrown back
At the edge of the world, silent flashes
escaping from time.
The wind cries like a wounded animal.
A bird’s metallic voice
So what about those many
sheets of drifting time?
The caravans left.
The traffic signal sways.
Through the chambers of the eye,
the street’s beaten gray.
air sped by.
A south wind carrying fangs, sunflowers,
The red minute waits.
Green just lies there awhile breathing.
Everything comes bearing a new name.
I see daylight take off running.
Face to the wind’s teeth.
(after Frank O’Hara)
Ah drone butterflies
when you think of them
in hologram stork mouths
you know how wonderful
the 21st century
and the gilded teeth marks
on the monitors
invisible and historic buzzes
clothed in data
like a Mike Kelley
there is the mystery of loss
our fingers pause
we invented this era
with our flying
which is blue and pillowy
we owe a debt to
our wires and to Mark Zuckerberg
for playing scrabble
in our lungs
before we were born
we don’t do much ourselves,
but click and chew
to our kinder
who are waiting
for the retweets to arrive
and who else cries
it is our habit
how are you living
in broken December
I am angry like a cupcake
in an éclair factory
How dare you
made in the shape
of our demographic
I was not
I was made between
the wings of a drone canary
“with an surgical strike carved
except for fear (just listen)
I am in love with this century
for being so complicated
but still I have to weep
“Being in a funk” is what the cool people call it.
It’s the purple that surrounds the scene at the lake.
Not sad enough to actually drown.
You say “I’m in a funk” and I think you think
you’re too pretty, too well groomed,
too stylishly disheveled, to actually sulk.
Have you ever tried drinking a milkshake
with a girlfriend in a funk?
She just stares at the straw as if sucking on it
would allow the whole world into her mouth.
When a teenager wears baggy sweatpants
all February, her math teacher may ask her
if she’s in a funk.
(She’s actually just pissed off.)
Frogs don’t get into funks
but toads do.
In the Bible, Abraham thought Sarah was in a funk,
but she was actually shaking with grief.
When her baby arrived, her 100 year old flesh
quivered like a sliced papaya.
There is nothing funky
about being in a funk.
The Polish biochemist Casimir Funk
The golfer Fred Funk wore a ruffled skirt
to settle a bet with Annika Sorenstam
Doing cartwheels or changing the bed sheets
are suggested cures for getting out of a funk.
To be in a funk is to want to cry,
but to be unable to access tears.
To be in a funk is to be unable to hear
the music in the subway’s rattle.
If Virginia Woolf had been in a funk,
she would have filled her pockets
with dead lilacs, instead of rocks.
Joanna Fuhrman is the author of five books of poetry. Her 6th book To a New Era is forthcoming in 2021. These are from a project called Data Mind.