(Originally published in Water Soup Press)
Poet Man likes to write about taking random women home from the bar on a Wednesday night. Not women like you, though. Capital-w Women, the willowy kind who don’t talk. The whole world is full of talking and Poet Man wants someone to listen to him and touch him and not need anything at all. He does them on the frameless mattress in the corner of his rented room and talks death at them in the few minutes between cumming and falling asleep. The Women leave the next morning, and in his poems Poet Man wonders why the world is so impersonal. All of these people talking but none of them hearing each other. People never listen to each other these days, says Poet Man. You agree for a second but Poet Man has already begun masturbating to the emptiness he feels when caressing random bodies. Or something. Poet Man smokes a cigarette. Poet Man drinks a whiskey. Poet Man falls asleep with his dick in his hand.
You catch Poet Man after the reading and you tell Poet Man you thought his work was brilliant. You say it illustrates perfectly the struggles of mental illness and isolation. Poet Man smiles like you would at a baby in the grocery store before informing you mental disorders are a myth and that the poem was really getting at the universal hopelessness of the contemporary American male, a sure-fire way, he says, to shake up the poetry world. You nod uneasily and Poet Man takes your hand without asking. He tells you you’re actually very smart and invites you for drinks that very minute. It’s only 4 o’clock, you say. Time is a construct, says Poet Man.
He insists on the most expensive bar in the neighborhood and doesn’t offer to pay because Poet Man thinks gender roles are archaic and identity politics are holding us back. You nod quietly for the rest of the night and as you’re signing off on the bill for your $15 order of two beers Poet Man thanks you. You ask Poet Man what for and Poet Man says for not being cruel because most women are so cruel, so heartless. They only lead to pain. It’s so tragic, he says, to want to touch a woman. So tragic, so tragic, so tragic. When you get to his place he repeats the phrase over and over again from on top of you while you wonder why there wasn’t any soap in his bathroom. Poet Man smokes a cigarette.
You pull your clothes back on and Poet Man asks you if you’ve ever thought of killing yourself and you tell him the story of when you were a freshman in college and learned about depression and got on medication and Poet Man says he doesn’t believe in depression. Because how can you live in a world like this and not want so badly to die? Because intelligence, says Poet Man, is a burden. You tell Poet Man you don’t feel burdened anymore since getting on the meds and Poet Man says, exactly and depending on all of these chemicals is killing you. Then, Poet Man smokes another cigarette.
You get up to leave and when you offer to give him your number he shakes his head sagely and says he doesn’t believe in second encounters because after all what are we but hopeless specs in a lonely universe destined to be alone so why bother? so you leave.
A few months later, you’re reading from your chapbook and spot Poet Man in the audience. You two share a grin so you catch up after it’s over. I see you cut your hair short, says Poet Man. You nod; what is it with you and the nodding? I prefer long haired women myself, says Poet Man. You tell Poet Man you were getting sick of styling your long hair in the morning and Poet Man warns you not to care so much about how you look. It’s shallow, he says, so shallow and tragic and anyway what have you been up to? You shrug and say you just moved in with your new girlfriend who you met at a protest. Good, says Poet Man. I always thought you would be better with a woman. Someone like you would be too cruel to a man. You tell Poet Man you’re actually bisexual and Poet Man says Oh, again with the identity politics anyway those poems were actually great. Actually? you ask and Poet Man smiles to himself and explains it just wasn’t what he’d expected and he liked the one about the Poet Man. It’s so universal, he says, taking a long draw of his cigarette.
- Kat Giordano