Christopher Cunningham


Don't you hate self-referential poems?
The ones that talk to you as if you're there
In the room with them, just watching the TV
At some bar? Some poem turns to you and gives you
A nudge: this stuffy stack of Times New Roman
In a three-piece, pin-striped, fitted serif suit
Puts its arm around your neck, and starts
To talk at you: "Don’t you hate ..."—but you
Don't hear the rest because there, on its breath, you catch
A whiff of blank verse -- of mothballs and grandpa's stale
Cologne. You sigh and stifle a yawn, foreseeing
Soliloquy, a metaphysical
Meditation -- or both.  Before you know it,
The thing is telling you its goddamn life
Story -- as if you cared -- hey, you're just here
For a beer or two or three, ESPN ... --
But the poem doesn't care, it just keeps talking and talking,
Droning on and on, like the wandering groan
Of lawnmowers in July, when air and grass are thickest,
Sound of blade on blade, of steel and green,
Sound of gas exploding, sparkplugs cracking,
Sound of polyglot air complaining in twenty
Tongues: inhaled and filtered, compressed and exhausted,
Twisted, whipped, whirled, and hurled, the groan of mower
And mown, and when you stop, it is so still,
You hear your fingers tingling, shaken neurons
Dancing naked tangos in your flesh --
Nervous ganglia quivering, breathless, chagrined,
Like when you're singing, lost to song, each note
-- and you turn to find a person
Who has been there, in the car beside you
At the light, windows down, listening.

Christopher Cunningham was educated at Stanford University and Duke University, where he received a Ph.D. in Literature. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of magazines and anthologies, including The Black Warrior Review, Ellipsis, The Evansville Review, Ninth Letter, The Iowa Review, and Best New Poets 2006. He teaches English at The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, where he lives with his wife and two children.

Current | Archives    Submit | Masthead    Links | Donate   Contact | Sundress