I can't wait for the last time someone says my name and means me—Franklin Cline— so I'm finally totally dead. When Tony Hoagland sleeps I bet he dreams of buying a handful of Texas saloons and naming them all Bars Poetica. When I fall asleep I wake up an hour later with sinus and money problems, too much coming out of one hole and not enough from the other. Anyway, poetics is not my strong suit, but here's something: a poem is a football and a poet is two quarterbacks and a stanza break is a fumble and a line is a punt. Boy, this is a tough crowd. At least I am already dead. When was the last thing that ever needed to be said said? I bet it was "I don't love you anymore" and the "you" was anyone and the "I" was already dead and the "don't" meant "do" but also "don't." On the other hand, I want so badly to be always. But it’s hard and it’s cold: the old ham sandwich of the poet wanting it all ways always, you know? I don’t feel bad for field goal kickers that miss; I feel bad for not feeling bad. I'm thinking: if I die I will just not have to go to the grocery store anymore, but then someone else will get the last bundle of carrots on clearance and that bothers me somewhere down in a part of myself I want to say the stomach but really it’s a brain tampered by a lifetime of carrot advertisements, orange with jealousy over all those loaded refrigerators in the quiet warm houses mine empty but for dirt and seeping oxygen. Does Tony Hoagland know the slushy elegy sprawled everywhere this morning? Was it already written that I'd slopped my shoe down into the grey mess a few hours after dawn?
WHATEVER IT IS A DEAD THING MIGHT DO
My iPhone insists I don’t mean “sestina” but instead “destroy,”
and I think
okay, now that’s something I can easily do:
destroy, that is, especially here in November
in which a certain reliable despair
whirls around the lawns, these green-to-brown leaves,
and I could sit here and watch these leaves
themselves, turn the ground brown with no hint of despair
and think they don’t think
about much at all in November
except for doing whatever it is a dead thing might do,
useful as anything I’ve bothered to do
in any November. Look, I’ll keep talking as long as no one gets up, leaves
and walks out into November—
bright, arid—looking to destroy
any air touched by anything
touched by despair.
Yes, I’m aware my destruction-worship is a form of despair
that was sprinkled over me the way early morning dew
was plummeted towards the grass. It wasn’t my choice. What if I think
I exist to delay the tornado boom of spring leaves?
More pressingly, I wonder what it is that I’m here now to destroy
especially here in November,
in which I, reliable, repeat myself in despair?
Is it enough to destroy
all these pieces of paper that tell us what’s due
and when? Whom do I pay for these leaves
so dead and beautiful they interrupt what I’m think-
ing about? What do you think?
I’m sorry. Let me start over. It’s November,
in which each northern bird packs up and leaves
for Florida’s warm orange like the stereotypical elderly, molting despair,
aches for something fruitful to do,
having checked off the ordinary and regret, having so much they need to destroy.
HERMES WAS BORN AT DAWN AND BY MIDDAY HAD INVENTED AND MASTERED THE LYRE
The current state of professional wrestling is a sorry one. Everyone talks. No one fights. They’re ignoring the simple beauty of how little it takes for two men to hate each other. One guy says, “I think I can beat you up,” to which the other guy replies, “No, I can beat you up,” and then someone, either the first guy or the second guy or someone else, says, “Well, then let’s see who can beat whom up.” Then they find out. It’s that easy. Who talks to someone they want to punch instead of just punching them? These men did not bulge out of their mothers for soliloquy. I didn’t pay to see you not bleed, to see you not use sticks and stones, chairs and tables, thumbtacks and barbed wire if we’re lucky. What am I missing? I’ve only seen one fight in real life, and not much of one. I was a small-town Missouri bartender, and one minute, two guys are sitting at the uncrowded midday bar then one guy’s zooming a sideways pint glass into the side of the other’s head. In one corner, wearing blue jeans and a black shirt, him. In the other, already slumped on the floor, wearing a pile of clothes, a guy who never had a chance. It was sunny outside, mid-July, the world more blood than glass. I don’t think they’d said a single word to each other. No theatrics. We had to use a lot of towels to clean up the blood. The towels were blue and then purple and heavy. We checked the papers often but the cops never caught the assailant, who ran out and left his eight-dollar tab unpaid. We always guessed he was from out of town. “No one from here could do that and get away with it,” we said, looking out of the window into the street for justice. I suppose purists wouldn’t call a one-punch knockout a fight qua fight. It was scary how soundless it all was, how over so quick. Professional wrestling, its impossibility, is beautiful, a violent thing that slowly kills its participants, like real life but more fun, with lower stakes. The audience cheers often. It makes us happy to know that violence can be carefully orchestrated in the name of good, to stand in a hot arena and shoot vibes of goodwill in collusion towards the good guys, the ones who have some serious punching to do on our behalf. We are rooting for something, holding signs up knowing they’ll be read by millions sitting at home. Think of Hermes; how quickly and successfully he acted, how many took his myth as truth. A God’s son. Hit him, we think. Just hit him. Get on with it. How hard can it be to say I hate you, let’s fight and then remain silent?
FRANKLIN K.R. CLINE‘s work has been featured in Matter, Beecher’s, and The Chariton Review, and is forthcoming from Cheat River Review. He lives in Kalamazoo, MI, with his fiancee, author Rachel Kincaid.
Read more work by Franklin K.R Cline:
Poem at Matter