as if this stop sign could be any more red
what if police officers killed innocent people in response
to poems i wrote instead of the other way around?
i’d probably stop writing poems. or, if i were more cowardly
maybe i’d start trying to weasel out of calling them poems altogether.
like i’d call this one a stressed-out essay
and the next one a great community member of a novella.
these poems are under so much pressure people might say.
i mean, pieces. mayors would call for me to wear a bodycam,
so the evidence of creation would be right there,
inches from the ground, without the sweat or hot breath.
i’d get to switch it off every now and then, on breaks,
at the end of a long stanza day. whenever i needed to, probably. apparently.
correspondents would tell anderson cooper how a couple (hundred, thousand)
poems that encourage murder don’t represent verse as a whole,
and it’s just a matter of finding those rotten egg poems
and throwing them out. someone might say poems ask for blood,
and others might say just stop murdering. just stop.
locker room talk
i have not heard someone say grab ‘em by the pussy
in any locker room. what i have heard
is she just lay there so i stuck it in her ass
in middle school. this was not in the locker room,
but at the row of lockers outside my homeroom.
laughter of all kinds. this wasn’t
a boys’ club. the grin and spiked hair who said it
had boys and girls around him.
mr. wagner walked by and wore a face like
i’m not touching that one.
i have not heard i moved on her like a bitch
in the locker room. what i have heard
is a second grade boy say
she’s a dirty little slut about a third grader
on the bus. the bus driver yelled back
you don’t talk like that on this bus.
i’m not sure if i heard i don’t even wait
or a friend talk about someone in a purple dress
in the locker rooms i’ve been in, but i have,
but i have in sociology courses
and in gas station parking lots, but i have in
driver’s ed. cars and at the doctor’s office,
in front of an aquarium, next to a playground,
in my living room, in my own mouth. most of our speakers
are not children, but they cackle
just like them.
michael e woods used to live with a family of raccoons in Missouri. He edits the Columbia Poetry Review and teaches at Columbia College Chicago. He received the Merrill Moore Prize for Poetry in 2015 from Vanderbilt University. Recent work appears in The Rising Phoenix Review, The New Territory, and Eclectica Magazine. Forthcoming works can be seen soon in Yes, Poetry, Solidago Journal, Truthdig, and The Nassau Review.
Image: V.S. Ramstack