Doug Paul Case
Covering Rodney Jones
& Denise Duhamel
What Makes You Beautiful
after Rodney Jones’s “Deathly”
I am alone, driving south from Indianapolis,
listening to that catchy new One Direction single.
There is a fine romance to listening to boy bands
as you speed down dark rural highways,
longing for your bed and for once not caring
that there won’t be some warm body waiting
for you in it: the ordinary nostalgia,
and then the clearer nostalgia
for what never happened:
the morning’s sunlit song
opening over soft snores
that are not precisely mine.
The man is abstract, of course.
I am the only boy in Indiana.
I am once the exhibitionist
and always the fool.
I am returning home
this night from a day unwinding
at the bathhouse, a day of tanning
and lounging and reading and sketching
the man with the tree tattoo
covering the right side of his abdomen,
the man who dances at the gay club,
the man who offered me his dry towel,
a drag from his cigarette, whatever
part of his body I would take.
The problem: he knows
he is beautiful, knows how many
dollars can fit in his jockstrap,
knows that when a boy from out of town
asks to draw him back in his room,
he’s hoping he’ll be asked to remove his clothes
also, despite his inexperience.
A girl once played this song for me,
to ask how I could be so enthralled
with it, if there was something
to the boys’ smiles that overpowered
the misogyny. The subject can only
be beautiful if she’s unaware,
if she thinks she is unattractive,
if her self-esteem is so low
she’ll go for any guy
who’ll tell her otherwise.
But that’s not it at all.
It’s the acknowledgment
of individuality, of differing
aesthetics, of value, of the light
caught just so. It’s asking
a stranger for affirmation
and for once receiving it.
Tonight I am a lucky man, alive
in the dark country, singing along.
Sex with a Famous Poet
after Denise Duhamel
Last night I had sex with a famous poet
and when I rolled over this morning
I shuddered because I hadn’t washed the sheets
in months, probably, and I could tell
from the smell, and when a famous poet
ends up back at your apartment
you should really have fresh sheets on
the bed. This is something I know now.
Also, that you shouldn’t lie
to your reader so early in the poem.
I’m sorry, dear reader, that was
something I’d forgotten from the dream.
Yes, it was sex with a famous poet
in a dream. Yes, he taught me everything
he knew about poetry before hoisting
my ankles into the air. I’m always
bottoming in my dreams. The problem:
He didn’t know what I wanted to learn:
what to do in the middle of a poem,
for example, when it slows down
and you’re not in love with the premise
anymore, why, when you think you’ve got
the punctuation in all the right spots,
the next draft’s leaking commas like lube,
where the compulsion to write about sex
begins, anyway, or how to slow purposefully
so you don’t run into the ending
before the reader is ready for the finish.
I’m never ready for the finish, dear reader,
to figure out where I want things to land.
I never want to do my laundry.
Doug Paul Case lives in Bloomington, where he earned his MFA at Indiana University. His poems have appeared in Salt Hill, Redivider, Weave, and The Chattahoochee Review. He is the editor of Gabby, a new journal dedicated to the talky poem.