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Trance Notebook #15


This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features a new poem by Wayne Koestenbaum. 
 

Trance Notebook #15

                                           [the opposite of Tupperware]

pallid and underage
Oscar Meyer
Weiner cocktail
hot dogs in their
stinky liquor—

__________

              cruelty inflicted
in Oscar Meyer pigpens?

__________

two-year-old boy died of
leukemia after being
Best Man at his
parents’ wedding—

__________

I sent my mother
a subscription to the
New York Times,
large-print edition,
though I’m not sure
she can read—

__________

guy without a shirt, red
hair, pants falling down,
backpack, Woodstock-
generation nudist

__________

lay on floor for half hour,
googled “nervous breakdown
symptoms,” discovered
that I always have
the symptoms of a
nervous breakdown—

__________

fell into a reverie about
asking the interviewer
to pose nude for me or
somehow making it
clear that he could
invite himself to strip—

__________

I wonder what my
father would say about
nervous breakdowns,
the type of subject
that fuels his eloquence—

__________

             don’t overuse
the word “rape” as
(manic)
metaphor for my own
writerly rapaciousness—

__________

              tomorrow draw
another crucifixion

__________

sexy guy entering
café thinks I’m over-ogling
him and resembles icy-
demeanored artist
whose neck I hovered
near in pursuit of musk—

__________

eviscerating envy
of sailor
hat akimbo
on crew-cut head

__________

Li'l Abner “I’m
past my prime”—why do
I find that song so haunting?

__________

             because I
don’t remember the singer’s name?
because she isn’t past
her prime?

__________

             what is a prime,
anyway?            

__________

and why did I already
feel past my prime when
I was seven years old?

__________

             outdoor hunk
with tight green shorts
rides away
on black bike and
wasn’t aware of my
existence—

__________

we talked about
Lana’s daughter Cheryl
Crane—“our younger listeners
probably don’t know
who Lana Turner is—”

__________

              learning
how to make cursive
capital T’s and Z’s
in elementary school—
I never made the
Z correctly—
we rarely
have recourse to a
capital cursive Z—

__________

haunted by Liza with a
Z and other renounced,
betrayed Z’s—

__________

one symptom of a
nervous breakdown is
social avoidance, my
specialty—

__________

             my father maybe
relieved to leave Venezuela
in an era before
international long-distance calls
were affordable—

__________

              teaching me how
to urinate standing up

__________

why did we call it
a pee-pee-thing?
an ordinary
suburban locution?

__________

            Twinkie defense,
Listeria, handjob,
God going commando

__________

                          —God’s
love affair with Otto Rank,
God’s love affair with
Simone de Beauvoir—

__________

God’s revisions of Kafka’s
“Penal Colony” before
Kafka finished writing it

__________

Miss Paul was my
second-grade teacher,
Miss Paul a funny
name, like
Miss Joe or Miss
Bob or Miss Peter

__________

masturbate on the top
bunk if you’re a girl,
on the bottom
if you’re a boy—

__________

every time I ask
permission she
looks aggrieved—
says “are you
eating celery?”

__________

despite the taboo against
cannibalism

__________

              it depends
what fish are used
in the gefilte fish—

__________

             death’s
interpreter, I’m
a fat man leaning on
the same bannister
Kafka’s uptight
virile father
leaned on

__________

                if he’s so famous
why do I need to ask
this question?

__________

the answer is Pink Floyd

__________

             Thomas
Bernhard, My Prizes:
“The problem is
always to get work done
while thinking that work
will never get done
and nothing will ever
get done…”

__________

              —the raminer
club—raminer the
phrase Anna Moffo
sings in Debussy’s
“La Mort des Amants”—
to reanimate

__________

             profound divas
like Tupperware
or like the opposite
of Tupperware

__________

flowers like escalators

__________

              “using” means
rubbing my eyes, their
chalcedony derrières

__________

Kirk Douglas’s “slippage,”
my eagerness to talk
about Kirk’s slippage

__________

one night we had roseate
nipples and blue mistletoe,
one night we were slapped
by our Baltimore painter
boyfriends at a bar

__________

like a long orgasm in
Dynagroove

__________

“Sempre libera” backwards
like Paul McCartney’s death
revealed by playing
“Revolution 9” backwards—

__________

              who taught
me that trick? 

__________

rescued or adopted by
a queer on Mission
Street in pursuit of
his perfect éclair,
his Patricia Neal
impersonation

__________

inégale Baroque music in

Death Valley

__________

               simple indigo
riposte to mystical
cupcake-pink boxes,
Maurice’s Bakery 

__________

their glazed
French twists
an untimely message
never measured

 

Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the PEN Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they are published (no spam, no news, just poems). 

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