Caleb Washburn
Covering Dorothea Lasky

You Should Say What You Want In This Poem

This title came to me in a dream
But honestly the beginning I had planned has already left me
I hate this feeling
This I lied to myself feeling
By now I was supposed to be headlong into a list of questions—
I remember this one:
What is your great deviation?
I should have written this poem while I was still in bed
Our furnace has stopped working
I’m writing this poem in a cold ending to March
In a cold morning before the sun has risen
It makes me miss the sounds of our landlord trying to fix the furnace
He worked two days on the furnace
But he didn’t show up yesterday
It’s down to 59° inside
I want how it sounded like he was in our walls back
Some notion of fixing

I haven’t had a title for a poem in four months
This one got me out of bed
Saying You Should Say What You Want in This Poem is true
Really, I don’t know what truth is
I can just as easily say that this title is not a truth
That would be true too
I’m imagining truth now as an old Italian man who shows up when you call him
You don’t call him
You call his wife because you can’t understand his accent
You tell her your furnace is broken
She tells you Dom will fix it
He shows up but he can’t fix it
He has to find the right parts
He’ll come back tomorrow
This is an almost perfect metaphor


Where Does a Teacher’s Authority Come From?

Somebody told me teaching is all about stage presence
So last summer I watched a lot of stand up comedians
I pictured Louis CK teaching Anzaldua
College students love Louis CK
But I was worried
So I looked at people saying things and asked myself
Do they look like they know what they’re saying?
No not always
So why do I believe them?
Why do people believe them?

Louis CK told a story in his old stand-up routine
How he didn’t want to have a second child
But his wife did
When he’s telling the story he says,
“She’s due any day now
This is true
This is all true”
Now Louis CK has a show on FX called Louie
His character is divorced with two kids
My boyfriend asks if the different spelling of Louie in the show matters

That line I just said is my coming-out line
Meaning I’ll never get to stop saying it
I’ll say it again:
My boyfriend asks if the different spelling of Louie in the show matters
In my first class I had a Chinese student named Xueqi
I tell her on the second day that my boyfriend helped me learn to pronounce her name correctly
He speaks Chinese
I’m looking at her when I say this
I’m not addressing the class
But it’s the first week of class
Nobody else is saying anything
It’s the first week of class
I say it as though everybody already knows and this is just part of a conversation

Maybe I’ll teach this poem to my class one day
Teach them about the process of deciding who your audience is
Teach them the trick of assuming who your audience is


Caleb Washburn is a poet and photographer from Kansas City, who is currently teaching composition at the University of Pittsburgh, where he’s working on his MFA. His poems have appeared, or are forthcoming from, The Journal, the Atlas Review, Gabby, and the Laurel Review.