One thing I’m sure most people don’t miss during the pandemic are long staff meetings in ice-cold air conditioning with insipid sandwiches and donuts. At least on Zoom, you can dress comfortably, easily distract yourself on the sly with Facebook posts and online games, turn the temperature in the room to a comfortable level, and eat what you like when you like. At a long business meeting, the best you could hope for is a pleasant daydream with which the need to listen or respond does not interfere.
One of my first experimental poems, “Staff Meeting Minutes,” is the daydream of a male heterosexual narrator stuck in another long meeting. The salient feature of this poem is the repetition of syllables that create a comic musicality as they turn into words that move the poem in a new direction: “blah, blah blanket,” “da da disco,” “ka ka close your eyes.” The daydream relocates the meeting to a cold but bizarre place in which horses and rats run along the interior cracks inside an iceberg, which in the end suddenly becomes a scene of beautiful women walking half-naked in bathing suits along the shore in summer. Along the way, I depend on references to Inuit mythology (“rice becomes words”), Christian aphorisms (“motes become beams”) and the Torah (“paper angel wrestling you”). “Staff Meeting Minutes” found its way into my first published book of poetry, Music from Words.
STAFF MEETING MINUTES
Conference room, blah blah blanket walls dissolve
and flow, a plunge in frigid water, blah blah
beat of branches warms your tingling frozen flesh,
incorporated world between two walls of ice,
ha ha horses’ heads on shivering human bodies,
da da disco rats merengue up the glacial switchback
seeking middens of your la la life to come,
discarded menus, transparent inhibitions,
a new caprice in permafrost: motes become beams,
rice becomes worms, wine becomes blood—ka ka
close your eyes, the paper angel wrestling you
is only you the times you win, another esker fantasy—
a higher I-don’t-want-a wah wah want-to-be
until you reach that place that makes you smile:
walls become windows, glossy panes in bah bah bay:
The other side is summer, bathing ladies on parade,
like naked women always, beautiful and full of love.
Published in Music from Words (Bellday, 2007)