J. Allyn Rosserís most recent book is Misery Prefigured. She teaches at Ohio University.
J. Allyn Rosser
With enough unpleasantness in the air
your mind exhales, you can ruin anything.
You can ruin the fifties by thinking freon,
McCarthy. Spoil an hour rereading ingredients
in the cereal in your childís bowl.
You can taint your love for your spouse
just by doubting it. Which act should take more
than a few seconds, considering how long
the love has been in development, how hard
you fought to keep it pure, keep it whole,
keep it. Can doubt be a word as primal as Dada,
Mama, and God knows you can doubt their love, too.
You donít have to reach far into your memory
for the biting criticism, the heart-hardening words
that eighteen years underfoot can bring up,
like scum on a clean pond, clean green scum
but scum nonetheless, because scum is memorably
repellent, not far to reach because painful memory
is what lasts, what separates us from the other beasts,
uniquely equips us to hold grudges, to maim
thoroughly and immediately, memory the arsenic
tipping the arrow that practically launches itself
from the quiver civilization by nature provides.
You can ruin this poem by thinking didactic.
You can sour your countenance by mouthing it.
I thought we understood each other back there
when I was lamenting the torn ozone, I thought
we were connecting, that if the world was up to us
it would be a successful one. Youíre starting
to really tick me off now. Split infinitive yourself.
I can ruin you, you know, I can erase you by drawing
my green shade, drawing my sweet tight bow,
the hovering relic of a real live Cheshire mouth
smiling not beatifically in no oneís direction,
though the words would bury themselves in you.