Sunday, August 2, 2009

How to be flawed

Mad TV had a dating service parody called Lowered Expectations that ran for a season or so, the gist of which were the absolutely undateable citizens looking for other undateables to hang with . The effect was sadder than it was funny--the sight of characters with intractable personality quirks trying a last ditch effort to find companionship through a whimpering admission of their grosser assets. Loneliness is an ungainly crucible for anyone to bear, whether super star or twitching wretch; the confession in the Mad parodies were losers begging for love, the assumption being that those who fall short, perhaps far short , of our insane standards of style and hipness suffer from a magnified self loathing. Which is why I like this poem by Cecilia Woloch. It's a declaration of what's- really-here, the words of someone who is unapologetic about their faults, perhaps a bit embarrassed by some of them, but not ashamed of any of them. It's not in-your-face like the monotonous products of slam poets can be--this is a monologue on a human scale, a bit of a conversation we come in the middle of, a splendid speech that fills in what we've missed without the digression of backward-motion narrative. Woloch is curt, crisp, and sharp in her lines, and manages to be take-me-or-leave-me-alone without being a full time jerk. I like this poem.




FIREFLIES
by Cecilia Woloch

And these are my vices:
impatience, bad temper, wine,
the more than occasional cigarette,
an almost unquenchable thirst to be kissed,
a hunger that isn't hunger
but something like fear, a staunching of dread
and a taste for bitter gossip
of those who've wronged me -- for bitterness --
and flirting with strangers and saying sweetheart
to children whose names I don't even know
and driving too fast and not being Buddhist
enough to let insects live in my house
or those cute little toylike mice
whose soft grey bodies in sticky traps
I carry, lifeless, out to the trash
and that I sometimes prefer the company of a book
to a human being, and humming
and living inside my head
and how as a girl I trailed a slow-hipped aunt
at twilight across the lawn
and learned to catch fireflies in my hands,
to smear their sticky, still-pulsing flickering
onto my fingers and earlobes like jewels.