From Douglas Goetsch we have powerful poems of the little world of ordinary people and the delicate filigree of desperate passion that haunts their lives–the woman whose identity seems to lie in her adamant battle against obscure corporate forces hedging existence and a lover who dreams of movie melodrama but can only stifle himself and wait. Goetsch is a newly-minted MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He grew up in Northport, Long Island, taught for years in the New York school system, is the founding editor at Jane Street Press, and has published several poetry collections as well as in immense number of individual poems in many prestigious places including a curious, little known lit mag called The New Yorker.
I was with her, as the list
of stores she’d never set foot in again
lengthened, as she wandered
strip mall parking lots like Lear
in his dwindling of available ports.
And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit
my weakness to her view
that A&S was a diabolical company,
the very combination of its letters
conjuring recrimination and disgust.
I’d been in the ranks of little soldiers
who jumped the counter and pillaged
customer service, festooning it
with typewriter ribbon and register tape
while she cried, Boys, boys…
fecklessly, like Scarlett O’Hara,
later treating us to sundaes at Carvel—
before boycotting them.
Somewhere in her reading of Ralph Nader
she must have grasped the importance
of summoning the manager,
disheveled little man in bifocals
emerging from his cluttered office
a few steps above the supermarket floor,
his walrus face turning sour
at her ultimatum: sell her
the whole shelf of tomato soup
mislabeled at 2¢ a can, or else
a letter to the Better Business Bureau,
and a picket line of local children—
just ask A&S. This goes out
to the beleaguered store managers
of Suffolk County, Long Island—
after we drove off did you
permit yourself a rolling of the eyes
with your cashiers and stock boys?
Did you go home with extra gratitude
for the wives you’d chosen? And did
you ever think about the child
in the grip of that inconsolable woman,
his hateful eyes peering up at you:
the source of all the world’s problems?
This love makes me think of Cinema Paradiso,
Salvatore standing through the winter
beneath the window of the banker’s daughter
waiting for her heart to thaw; or Benjamin
at the end of The Graduate, screaming
the bride’s name from the back of the church
like a crazed ape, then fending off her family
with the mammoth cross ripped from the wall.
But that kind of thing only works in movies—
in real life I think it’s called stalking.
So while I wait for the life in which you love me
I’ll just admire the trees, standing stoically
all winter, as if they didn’t have veins and pulses,
as if they aren’t gripping the earth for dear life.
Douglas Goetsch’s poems have appeared in Poetry, The New Yorker, The Gettysburg Review, Best American Poetry, and The Pushcart Prize Anthology. His newest collection of poems, Nameless Boy, is forthcoming from Carnegie Mellon University Press. Goetsch taught for 21 years in the New York City public school system, then served as artist in residence for two years at the University of Central Oklahoma. Later this spring he’ll be the Distinguished Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at Western Kentucky University. He currently serves on the core poetry faculty at the Red Earth low residency MFA program, and is the founding editor of Jane Street Press (janestreet.com/press), which has just published Stephen Dunn’s Falling Backwards into the World.
Wow, that “Elaine!” just leaped for me. So jaunty in its desperation. Thanks.
“Elaine!” captures overt passion and longing and reminds us that sometimes the strongest emotions run deep under the surface.
“as if they didn’t have veins and pulses”
thanks for these beautiful poems.
Thanks for the comments. I’m glad you enjoyed the poems. It’s a pleasure to appear in Numéro Cinq!
Wonderful poem. Can’t believe I’m just now finding this. I’m constantly googling you to see of you have written anything.