Did you ever spend the evening drifting in and out of sleep while watching television? Your consciousness toggles effortlessly between the TV show, a drowsy state in which you hear the TV as a background muttering, your dreamworld, and dreamless sleep. Sometimes when you wake up, you could swear that the TV is on a different station from the one you had on before, and you conclude that you must have kept clicking through the stations on the remote as you entered sleep. Enjambed words and images flow from one state of mind to another. A detailed description of the evening’s reality from your point of view approaches a surreal movie.
Maybe because the pandemic has me watching more television, or maybe because I’m getting older, but I have been experiencing more of these half-awake, half-asleep television soirees lately. The poem I wrote about this state of semi-lucid television surrealism, “Still Life with Pheromones and Late-night TV,” appeared in I-70 last year. Enjoy!
STILL LIFE WITH PHEROMONES AND LATE-NIGHT TV
Hand remote click-click,
your shoulders spring from chest
and you awake from mental intercourse
to moil of moaning bass and hip-hop earworm.
You’re a groggy human salmon
slipping through the airplane aisle against the flow,
getting off when everybody else is getting on,
and your seven-bedroom ranch with windshield windows
feels like crusty fridge and hotplate
on the counter of a furnished room
by the sink in which you piss and wash your dishes.
Hand remote click-click, another nest of ants
with forty different glands emitting signs
and signals, is this caste determination,
grooming, care of brood, alarm?
Click-click and turn the volume down
on unsaid things you feel from silent pictures,
a whiff that signifies that someone’s lying,
that sniff that says they didn’t like your presentation,
a chill that makes you realize—
no one’s listening, heard through skin.
Click-click, another screen, another fragrance,
Is it in the air or something between us?
is it gesture, touch or intonation?
this single laugh emitting pheromones
that tell you her desire for you, you hope,
a scent of queen envelops all her subjects.
Click-click, fade to foxhole stench
of endless war but no one really dies.
Published in 1-70 (2020)