Three Poems

By Katie Degentesh

"#imaginary," "#genuine" and "#phenomena" belong to a series titled with words from Marianne Moore's "Poetry" that I have hashtagged and run through various social media platforms—Reddit and Twitter most often, though Instagram has played a role as well. Each poem is then sculpted from its hashtag's search results. 

 

#imaginary

Her name was Nadine. She existed solely to blame things on.
I knew what she looked like. But I didn't see her.
I understood that some people could be invisible. 

His name was Business Duck. He was the back half of a tugboat
and the front half of Donald Duck. He would do absolutely nothing
except occupy seats that other people wanted to sit in.  

I also had one named Boy for years. I had to intervene
in their arguments many times: you know, kid stuff,
like what to have for dinner or how they should murder everyone.  

I used to just talk to people, as if
there were people with me all the time,
even when I was completely alone. 

One of them was a skeleton dog.
It would race everywhere, and always be beside me.
I practically had a midget vampire following me. 

His name was Splashy. Miss that guy.
I had these black panthers that would run alongside the car,
going into the houses of kids I didn't like and messing with them.  

My best friend and I each had a fleet of friendly bed bugs.
My Mum would often hear me when I was taking a tinkle speaking to them
and thanking them for helping me shake off my junk. 

I had a husband when I was four.
He was a giant sweater vest named Herman,
and we had a son named Boobie. 

We had two restaurant chains:
Chi Chi Nose Shop, a Chinese restaurant run by mice
in the roofs of cars, and the Nake, a restaurant that you ate in naked. 

Alice was pretty tame, just needed to have a spot saved at the table, car, etc.
Then one day, I just got sick of her, and threw her out the car window
as we were driving, saying, "Goodbye, Alice." 

I remember what she looked like (a glow worm)
and I remember having conversations with her.
I would make my parents re-open gates and doors, telling them they forgot her. 

I even remember asking her to stop coming around
because I was too old to have friends like her anymore – five –
and when I couldn't stop thinking about her,  

I tried to flush her down the toilet on a few occasions.
After that I had a star with a face that would float around after me,
or dance around during class to make me laugh.  

He was a blonde version of me
and we ran around on the edges of grass and pavement.
It didn't take too long for my dad to inform me 

that my friends were the devil's minions,
and he drew the star I described on a piece of paper
so we could burn it. That was the end of that.

 

#genuine

Death removes a lot of cover
When you’re covering the world in your thoughts.
It’s not like losing a pen, is it. 

That’s not the argument.
These are the sorts of things I say to people.
I work their job for them so they can stay home and grieve. 

I know you’re hurting.
I’ll be over Tuesday to mow your lawn for you.
I’m all for your fucking off with your secretly soy self. 

I’m talking about YOUR lawn, widow.
Not just some canned cliché that means nothing.
Surely you have more complex feelings about it than "thoughts and prayers". 

There are no words that will fix it.
It's not about you. Don't try to make it about you
By being the one who has to say the deepest, most touching words. 

I'm Christian and personally don't like this statement.
My child got run over by a car and is dead.
I'm going to write a facebook post about his death 

I'll be tweeting about his death tomorrow #YOLO
It's a double standard, and nothing changes: it falls on you.
I didn’t give a damn if they were sincere or not. 

You're just throwing those emoticons everywhere...
protecting yourself from awkwardness
people use it use it on the internet all the time when someone dies. 

Hey man. I've been thinking about your dead mom.
I talked to Jesus about her for a little while. Mostly good stuff.
It felt like a token comment to make her lower her shields in respect 

while her boyfriend was getting a lung transplant
and was in the public eye too much. Shut the fuck up.
I acknowledge you, you're part of my social group, and I'm not a threat.

 

#phenomena

A kid I knew lost his backpack and needed a replacement.
He came to school the next day with a big mailbox in his hands
Filled with his books. A couple of days later he added straps to it.  

Voilà, he had a mailbox backpack. He made a million dollars!
When women would wear thongs to show high on their hips,
Kids started to spike up their bangs and bleach them. 

Grown-ups are sporting plastic decorations on their heads
In the shape of vegetables, fruit and flowers.
We had a few kids choke on them from chewing on them. 

If you survived the rubber band installation alone, you were lucky.
But if you snapped them open and slid them against someone's skin
It was just like a knife. It had a star on it, so I told the gas station attendant  

I was getting another one for free.
She thought I belonged on the short bus.
We wrote a letter demanding reparations  

For having tracked down so many star-labeled pops.
They wrote back essentially saying, very softly,
You kids made this shit up, stop bothering us. 

Every flea market in Florida still sells these to old people.
Mine looked like it could fit a doll when I took it off.
If you stuck two together, it would make a baby. 

I worked at a day care when they got really big.
If someone ripped the bracelet off, you had to perform a sexual act with them.
They were color coded and could range from a hug to anal sex.  

Sixth graders said You have to do it doggy style! to each other.
Girls everywhere when I was in elementary school
Wore pacifiers around their necks like a necklace. 

Like women who purposely shave off their eyebrows,
Only to draw them back on with a pen.
It was pretty cool to color on yourself with those gel pens. 

Have we gotten to the point
Where we no longer understand
How ideas can spread without the Internet?

Katie Degentesh’s first book, The Anger Scale (Combo, 2006), was featured in the Poetry Society of America’s New American Poets Series. Her work has been reviewed or featured in venues such as The Believer, the Chicago Review, and Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology. She lives in New York City, where she works as a digital creative director and writer.