Poetry from Cortney Bledsoe

Doing the Work 

My therapist thinks being

polite is the same as faith,                  
a habit, worn long enough—

                                                            
like a crate-trained soul—I smile.

This is how we patronize

each other, her and me                       
and God. If I promise to jump

                                                            
at the thunder, He promises

not to burn me from the

ground up. With her, it’s just             
cash. She asks             
if I have any

friends. I say too many has always

been my problem. That’s not                         

the right word. What I mean              
to say is that when I was younger,

                                                            
I never woke up alone, but

I never slept, either. Let me

tell you a joke. What does                  
a gangster cat say? (In an Edward

                                                            
G. Robinson voice) Meow, see,

meow. My daughter and I made

that up together. Maybe you had        
to be there. To put it another way,

if I open my mouth, what do you

think will come out? Dirt daubers     

crawling on my tongue, which           
is another way of saying writer’s

block, the smell of mud, which

is another way of saying death.

But I paw through the nests,               
looking for the sound of my own

voice before I lost the accent,

the mud for my father’s approval.     

When I was a boy, and the sickness   
took her, my mother would howl

late into the night, me lying

in the dark, listening to the animal    

that had gotten in, waiting for it         
to find me and feed. I’m not trying

to complain. Lots of my friends

had much harder lives than I             

until they died. She asks why             
I’m here, and I say I’m buying time.

I’m tired. I’m going to kill myself,

but I can’t today. I have an                

appointment. Give me a decade.        
Help me find the strength, somehow 

to last that long. Not that I’m implying

in any way that it would be your       

fault. She nods, and I’m grateful        
for her so obviously practiced

sincerity; the last thing I need

is to fling a craving on some             

body. Here is a list of ways I’ve

                                                            
tried to die. Water, wind, a bullet’s

kiss, the things of the world

I’ve swallowed. I’ve got so much     

going for me, I can barely stand.        
This is why I don’t own a gun.          

Do you drink or do drugs? She asks.

That’s a kind of trust exercise

with the world I’m not prepared         
to take, I say. The only thing

I remember about my mother’s smell

is urine. Maybe, if I could’ve

saved her, I could forgive myself       
for still being alive. But forgiveness

is a myth; eventually, you just           

forget to be angry. Let’s not talk       

about me anymore. She says,             
Okay Here’s an exercise. I want you

to write about your trauma.

When that’s done, I want you            

to run as far away from it as you

                                                            
can. And then have a snack or soothe

yourself in some way. I can hear rain

outside as I type this, working on      

its aim. Maybe I’ll order pizza. 

***


 

Some Thoughts on Moonflowers

 

Skitterings in the night, like

            bristly feet and dripping teeth.

            I am not butter, I don’t

            care what the pamphlets say.

            You may not fry anything in me.

 

Magic lacks melatonin, which

is why it hides from the sun.

Ask anyone who knows.

Shadows. Moving lights.

If all the evil could shut

the fuck up that would be

great. I’m trying to die, here.             

 

My head hurt for days because                      

            I couldn’t afford to keep up

            with my meds. Don’t tell me

            it’s about anything other than

            greed.

 

It’s always raining somewhere

            n mi hart. *tap tap*

           

Maybe the mice are putting on a symphony.

Maybe the moonflowers are going for a walk.

Maybe the dust bunnies are thirsty for blood.

 

When I go on meds, I can’t see anything

            inside my head, so I have to write

            to have thoughts.

 

It’s about keeping myself safe because

            the squeaky wheel gets evicted.

 

On a scale of one to ten tell me how

            Capitalism is treating you today.

            The first two don’t count.

 

These nights when I’m waiting to be

            recycled, I think about the warmth

            of your body in my arms

and remember there was a time

                        however brief

            I didn’t feel alone.

haha no take backs.    

***


 

Mary Oliver

 

I’m supposed to tell you a story

to make you forget how sad it is

you’re going to die without having

enjoyed most of your life. Well, okay.

Nature is a good start, like how these

little gray birds roll in the dust on

a path outside my apartment, avoiding

the broken glass, stray cats. They do

it because their bodies make too much

oil, which is good for helping them be

aerodynamic, but not when it’s too much.

This is a metaphor for how adaptations

often overwhelm our lives. But it’s also

about birds, so Mary Oliver can eat it.

But not really, because she’s really good,

if you’re the kind of person who can

afford a garden. I still need a joke, though.

They’re hard, especially in poetry, which

is supposed to be too pretentious to laugh

at itself. Here’s one my daughter is working

on:

Knock knock.

(Who’s there.)

Doorbell repairperson.

(Doorbell repairperson who?)

Ding dong.

She’s still working on it. She’s eight.

Don’t be so fucking judgmental.

***


 

Remember the Lightning and Her Sister Darla

 

Back then, the world existed in 4 minute slices,

radio friendly, and capable of being shined

with the right spit. We never listened to

the words because we trusted the censors, not

realizing they were dying like the rest of us.

Pastries tasted like sugar, and funny colors

didn’t matter in a beverage. This morning,

I dumped out my leftover intentions in

the parking lot so I could recycle the cup. Maybe

a flower was trying to grow from that concrete.

I followed a man to the stairs—give me

the confidence of an old man in shorts

and sandals, black socks worn without irony,

and an overwhelming need to chat with strangers.

I was never that unable to question others’ desire

for my company, and I have mania. Inside,

everything is animal, including my shirt. Every

day, I forget the color of the sky until I sneak

out and ask someone. Most times, they look

from one to the other and shrug. I finally

petitioned to get a screen put up. It flashes “blue

and sometimes gray” from dawn until dusk.

I still ask because I don’t like to believe. Back

then, the sky was always forgetting me. Lightning

asked my name at parties, so it knew who to avoid.

Now, I see it on my morning commute. Ugly

tie and khakis. Sleeveless blouse the wrong

color for its skin. Its sister Darla got married

and divorced a long time ago. She’s back

from the coast, but no one seems to know

which one. Kids and debt. When I catch the last

elevator with the lightning, it’s shaking its head,

shocked at the state of things, like us all.

Raised on a rice and catfish farm in eastern Arkansas, CL Bledsoe is the author of thirty books, including his newest poetry collection, The Bottle Episode, and his latest novel The Saviors. Bledsoe co-writes the humor blog How to Even, with Michael Gushue: https://medium.com/@howtoeven Bledsoe lives in northern Virginia with his daughter.

1 thought on “Poetry from Cortney Bledsoe

  1. Congratulations. A simple journey in an ordinary world (it makes me remember the song by Duran Duran)

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