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Poem to Some of My Recent Purchases

ISSUE:  Winter 2002

Durable goods,
sweet and crude,
I calculate your worth
by the glory available,
divide by dollars spent, my relief,
the exact nature and angle of my pleasure: abide with me, things say.

We won’t leave you here alone.

Lipstick, pantyhose (Donna Karan), A-line cashmere skirt,
mid-heel spectator pumps, and lately,
a high amp juice extractor
for vegetables and fruit—

I choose you
because each day for 662 years my grandparents ate
bologna sandwiches, and then
Hoover came in
and things got really bad.
900 years of onions and reflex courage.
5,648 years of ward bosses, head busters, union dues, babies,
Fiorella La Guardia leading the National Anthem
at Yankee Stadium, and no
roses or raises, ever.

Responsibility: my dad’s dead dog
when he was growing up, schlepping Boys’ Life door to door.

Dog-Tired: my second cousin on my mother’s side.

Makeshift Gratitude: my mother on cold school mornings
slapping mustard around
in her bathrobe, cigarette atilt in her lips.
She made the bologna sandwiches
I was destined to unwrap.

Bracelet, earrings, tanzanite toe ring
(I liked peridot better
but they didn’t have my size),

if I never buy anything,
how will I distract myself?
How will I weigh myself down
when the last winds come to find me unworthy with
wailing, gnashing, and proclaiming
by which I am sucked up and
bare as a soup bone in butcher paper
thrown free?

The big wars are over
but the small ones never end.
What shall I save?

In my personal bedroom community the babies are not always
 kissed or fed;
boys murder boys;
politicians dance with underaged girls named
Absolute Value or Agnes Dei
while buses loaded with dead pensioners
leave on the hour
for Indian gaming in Palm Springs. What I am saying,

my dear, dear purchases,
is that I refuse to be chronically wistful.
I tear open your clear wrappings with my teeth
in the front seat of my car.

I love you.

And if not you, precisely,
I adore the moment the salesgirl hands you over
as if proffering
the sunset and all its glowing fruits.
Jesus is my homeboy, her lovely tattoo tells me,
and my son will be safe
if I will only pray.

Bracelet, lampshade, purse, perfume
(Coco, by Chanel),
votive candles
too pretty to burn,
am I to understand
my sarcasm
will not help me?

In the ascendant American paradigm,
I leave Macy’s with an armload of usable truth
in a world of plenty.
The sparrows do not line up
in their sniper nests against me,
my credit rating holds,

I buy,
not to escape the world
but to draw it nearer. To build
more world up around me.

Bracelet, perfume, lampshade, purse,
jewel-horde, dream-horde,
cast your spell. Consume me as you do.
Take me home,
where I might hold you in my lap a while,
now that I am often afraid.


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