The Thing That Would Make Her Happy by Rodd Whelpley

This poem was selected by our guest editor, Joe Russo.

You know the thing that would make her happy is if you would use a word from the chart posted on her office wall. You see it when you look away from the perfect lipstick of her social work smile or her eyes that, pupil-to-pupil, pin to yours while she waits the silent prelude of your answer.

 

The Thing That Would Make Her Happy by Rodd Whelpley

You know the thing that would make her happy
is if you would use a word from the chart
posted on her office wall. You see it
when you look away from the perfect lipstick
of her social work smile or her eyes that,
pupil-to-pupil, pin to yours while she
waits the silent prelude of your answer.

You know such noble accents and lucid,
inescapable rhythms (carry them
useful as birdhouses into courtrooms),
but you don’t make space for her eight words, paired
in two columns, that you’d think – if they were
essential – would have at birth, or at least
by now, double helixed somewhere in you.

You want to say there are no ideas
but in things. The thing where you smacked your kid.
The thing where you eat the candy until
your hands quiver. The thing where you can’t keep
details of the trauma that left you scars.

She wants you to say, yes, these are some things,
say there are also things not ideas.
2018-11-09
As if you cannot cast handfuls of dust.
You have for years, dispelling notions like

Words, which you can toss on the cider heap,
or which hang fixed to that chart, not, you think,
like a ring of keys, but like some structure.
House frame. Window pane. The scaffolding of
a stanza for a person you don’t know.

*

Rodd Whelpley manages an electric efficiency program for 32 cities across Illinois and lives near Springfield. His poems have appeared in Tinderbox Poetry Journal, 2River View, Star 82 Review, Menacing Hedge and other journals. Catch as Kitsch Can, his first chapbook, was published in 2018. Find him at www.RoddWhelpley.com

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