“Thanksgiving: A Poem”

By Ted Rees

May 4, 2020  By Ted Rees

That whole side of town
has never been the same since
the motel done closed,

seems like a desert
or a clothes dryer’s insides
on high tumble, yep,

a movement in prise
the only dance known right now –
first, place your index

finger right under
your floating ribs, then pull hard
to opposite sides:

a pained sugar bowl
tracking herds of ants inside
with that vibrant pulse.

The red Caddy’s hot
and whipping toward everywhere –
some rutted shit road,

Seminary Ave,
Tire Beach, Potrero del Sol,
538 Johnson –

there’s a laugh pealing
away on a grainer porch,
scraper bike hung up –

it’s mind detergent,
you eat it you big bad boy,
you sensitive nip.

It’s a shame, brother.
We could all feel so alive.
We felt so alive –

it’s a resistance,
the manner in which we smile
with each other’s heat

radiating through
the drab excuse for a world.
We drank beer, sunset
cast a pissy haze
over the city, we saw
trouble and so tore

into it, you threw
your arm over my shoulder
and now I am struck

with the belief that
we were finding a way out.
It burrows, I’m blue,

I am forgetting
my purpose here: to tattoo
the following words

onto my dull face:

I’m frolicking in meadows
of the real, glum wastes

of burnt Bermuda
and contractor bags bulging
with turds and bottles

of Heineken, shirts
given away at fun runs
for dead charities

that did not travel
as pepe to Port-au-Prince,
doing good never

felt better they say –
this boardroom sure hits the spot –
dry erase values.

Crisp wild fennel stalks
filmed with exhaust and abuse,
some median joy –

I plunder it there
and fashion a fricassee:
sup on this plastic

plus sub ketchup packs
slimed from minivans’ pop-outs.
Bless this interstate

and bless you, junior.
You’re doing the Lord’s work, son.
A perfect show, lad:

gaze upon these skulls,
witness how they are arranged
in the comely shape

of Apple’s logo,
scrubbed shiny per instructions.
We slid our fingers

smudging the screen’s sheer
and oh, oh, oh—it’s magic!
Or it’s a purchase:

bulk toilet paper,
a weight set, those Blu-Ray discs,
something for Granma,

adult chewable
vitamins shaped like wee pricks,
a roto-tiller.

The boy doing chores
unearths the gruesome remains
of ten years of dead

goldfish, guinea pigs,
and rabbits passed in his sleep
then replaced by dad.

He sobs in the yard
at his insight while mom cooks
a chicken dinner.

They take a few steps
then plop down, their skeletons
unable to heave

the weight they carry.
The stronger ones peck and gnaw
at the small and weak.

What’s this cloud of dust?
I feel a cyclonic rift
and fret shepherdless

partly from desire
but also drubbed by terror
scanning the light change,

repeating lyrics,
temporary fabric scores
against my wrecked skin.

The same face appears:
stuck in reruns of grimace
and mute mania,

children stuck in pens
and they can’t take that away,
so the song rejoins.

How many bodies
hidden in the tall grasses?
The prairie’s secrets:

sentineled cement
blocks thrumming with cattle wire.
What he said was this:

the worse things get out
in the world, the better things
get in jail. Always

there’s a job, a new
opportunity for towns
to keep their tax base.

The council whoops, shrieks
national retail distress,
it’s a movement based

on plywood surfeit,
tetanus, and sporting goods shops.
House up in the hills

has gates and cameras
eyeing the scrub and gravel
at all hours, yessir.

This could be heaven,
waking up in a blanket
in a drainage ditch,

rifle beside me.
People think I’m just joking.
I’ll show them hahas

then wander the roads
leading toward the camps’ remnants
marked with a bronze plaque.

Do you understand
the procedure now? Just stop
a few, few of their

machines . . . radios
and telephones . . . lawnmowers . . .
throw them into dark

for a few hours then
sit back and watch the pattern:
adverse conditions

and everyone seen
becomes an adversary.
I lost my senses

in Dollar General
searching for the batteries
for the damn remote.


Excerpted from Thanksgiving: A Poem by Ted Rees. Copyright © 2020 by Ted Rees. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Golias Books. 

Ted Rees
Ted Rees
Ted Rees is a poet and essayist who lives and works in Philadelphia. His first book, In Brazen Fontanelle Aflame, was released by Timeless, Infinite Light in 2018. His chapbooks include the soft abyss, The New Anchorage, and Outlaws Drift in Every Vehicle of Thought. Recent work has been published in the Poetry Project newsletter, Social Text Online, Full Stop Quarterly, and ON Contemporary Practice’s monograph on New Narrative. With Levi Bentley, he publishes chapbooks under the Asterion Projects moniker. He is editor-at-large for The Elephants and teaches creative writing and literature courses at Temple and area universities.

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