Friday, May 17, 2013

"HOW TO STEAL THE LAP TOP OF YOUR CHILDHOOD NEMESIS": a poem by Eric McHenry

 She keeps a spare key in a hollow rock
outside the kitchen door she doesn’t lock.
Her lights are on. Her sheltie is all talk.
You shouldn’t need the code for the alarm
(1234) because she tried to arm
the thermostat again. You’re getting warm.
Her master suite smells like a Hallmark store.
Her vanity is huge. Try to ignore
the fact that everything’s a metaphor
and that I’ve let you walk right into it.

Blow out the Yankee Candles she left lit.
Take in the master bathroom. Take a shit.
Flush adamantly. Agitate the handle.
Refill the Softsoap. Light a Yankee Candle.
Her MacBook Pro is hiding, like the Grail,
in plain sight. Anyone but you will fail
to look directly at that bathroom scale.
Open her desktop. Close her Yahoo! Mail.
She keeps her recent photos in a folder
called “Photos.” Click a thumbnail and behold her
in sunlight in a champagne off-the-shoulder
sheath wedding dress, fussed over by attendants.
She’s 40 and has come into resplendence
like an inheritance, like heirloom pendants
flattering ear and flawless collarbone.
I should have told you, or you should have known,
that she has changed the most and aged the least
of all your enemies, her face uncreased
by laughter, worry, shame, or self-denial.
Those are her cheekbones. That’s her cryptic smile.
Those are her footsteps on the kitchen tile.


This has the whiplash jerkiness of a rap tune, rhymes and near rhymes popping up in places you didn't expect them, no less jarring than deep pot holes on an old street. 

It is exceedingly clever and fast, an accumulating dust storm of detail regarding off key references, minor and major complaints, bits of property, accessories, a furious attempt to inventory the things in an apartment of a someone the narrator has had a long standing resentment against that seems an attempt to catalogue and classify a rival, an enemy. 

The poem is the prate of someone in a hurry, brain and limbs gorged with adrenaline, who is in the process of constructing their rationale for the break-in and mischief as they skulk and prowl around the transgressed abode.

Look at these things, look at this banality, witness this list of open windows on the lap top computer, who wouldn't deserve this foul deed for being so much themselves in their own apartment? Eric McHenry piles it on and keeps the poem moving, the rhymes unexpected and nonsensical, serving nothing other than the obligation to create coherence and cadence (and distraction) in the commission of what is a crime, plain and simple, this is a point of view of a hand held camera, jittery, unfocused, unsure of what it is recording. This  seems less a monologue intended for an audience of one or many that it seems a jumbled, if rhyming stream of thought. The references are fluid, no pun intended, the tenses are unsettled; as with most thought processes, the ideas are incomplete and merely suggest a longer argument before a mention of certain words introduces a new related subject and a change in tenor, from formal to short hand. This is to say that with the exception of the "she" who is the person who's apartment is entered illegally, the remaining pronouns are the narrator, embroiled in his obsession beyond clear grammar.

Surreal in large part, clever and whiz-kid in verbal exuberance, this is a resentment acted on that becomes impulse behavior. This person, this person who found the hidden key to the apartment, is out of control and immune to sense making. This makes the poem effective , sinister, a virtuoso tour of a mind concocting a symbolic act that cannot be read by others .