Two Poems by Ed Skoog

By  | September 2, 2014 | 2 Comments | Filed under: Poetry


Two Poems by Ed Skoog


The Macarena

The chair I’m sitting on is mostly nothing.
Electrons go right through it. Memory, which
is electricity, seems like less than anything
and yet in the inexplicable universe I’m there
again, and it’s now, the summer of the Macarena.
Two months in Abilene, Kansas and I see
nobody in the central air of the Sunflower Hotel.
My eighth floor window stares at soft, buttery hills.
Streetlights pink the tracks downtown
like a chalk outline to fill in later.
I never know what next. I am writing a novel.
Its characters are historians at the Eisenhower Library.
I go to its chapel daily, sit before his tomb
looking for a way to make a story up. I write
hundreds of pages, there and at my kitchenette,
alone and twenty-three. Some weekends I drive
to KC, where a woman who won’t need me
lets me stay over, though at sex I’m still a boy,
the way at writing I’m still naïve, unskilled,
fascinated by form but lazy about content.
I’d like to finally read what I’ve been quoting.
Rummaging after maturity, I overdo the easy
and am too timid to engage full heart.
But I work the paths that may lead from myself.
Ike stays a boy, boyishly winning the worst war.
As president little happened we praise him for,
and by we I mean the characters of my novel,
among the adult troubles they fall into
and I don’t understand. I avoid addressing
tyranny and battlefield and Holocaust.
For years I write liner notes to real life.
All drafts of that story will leave the earth,
and I’ll send gratitude to the devil of fortune,
who will let that manuscript drift
like a bad vapor through offices of agent and editor.
This summer at the Democratic Party Convention
in Chicago, where the man who gives Leaves of Grass
away carelessly will be re-nominated, the delegates
keep doing the Macarena every time I look.
The vice-president claims during his speech
to be doing the Macarena, but does not move,
then offers to demonstrate it again. Presidents
are always late in the day of their time.
Like dances, our political lives come and go.
It’s the summer of all dances, coffee leaping
in the percolator, gravity-defiant solitude,
and through the window, houses and fields
seduced in their own passing crazes
of seasons, life and death that won’t need me.



Adam and Eve Fight About Money

Around the valley, storms struggle to dusk;
love ignites windows and it’s hard to find
truth no matter what you look out of
and see a couple, Adam and Eve, perhaps,
fighting about money. An age arrives
where you don’t care, and you sit in the car
outside a grocery store, the child
asleep in his belts. Classes start back up.
Young men in t-shirts carry energy drinks
through automatic doors. Untroubled
women in yoga pants: one buys propane.
In my first job, at the Topeka Zoo, I stayed
all night for a giraffe’s labor. In the morning,
the infant in its amniotic sac, a blue balloon.
If one had more money from the beginning,
or had gone with “the green lights,” as a friend
advised. If the month itself, September, stays
ambiently withered in yards long and then short.
One might stretch out on a hotel bed under a fan.
The thought makes animals appear, figments, a grey
animal that branches off from grief and breaks loose.
Sometimes, he, whose life fell apart when he was born
as it did for all of us, runs around loose,
harmonica in one hand, wild grapes in the other.
When we first met, he grabbed my thumb
and would not let go until the nurse uncradled
his hand to weigh his body. Now his two
giraffes squeak, one we lost, then and found
in the yard after melt, and the one to replace it
which has never been lost. He chews them
when his teeth are sore. Like one with an idea.
It’s an amorous bunch down at the laundry
on break, coupled up, or texting, perhaps
because it’s too loud in steam for words
or an informal rule says talk differently
inside and out. Maybe these two met on the job
or were hired together as a couple unknown
to Human Resources, whose nightmare is love.
Seeing them makes me want to do a kindness,
because I too get tired, stumble into myself.
You meet so many people, and they sift away,
and then step forward in the mind. I remember
when I was in college, and in student senate,
there was an older student, fiftyish, who’d returned
to finish his accounting degree, and in the senate
represented the “non traditional student”–
a lean man, with grey hair, and a smoker’s gait,
and big teeth he chuffed his laugh through.
At break he went down the list of how full
of I shit I was. But he seemed to enjoy
campus life, its opportunities for outrage.
I think his life had fallen in. I see him now
this moment, clear as any hallucination,
how fondly he watched his ash fall as I talked.
Now I’m him. Maybe I’ll go back to school
study a trade, earn some money, O Rodney
Dangerfield mine! No sooner do I resolve
that going back to school is the key move
do I remember 1986’s Back to School
and the genre of the old misfit in college,
its critique and solidification of the class
struggle, perhaps there has even been one
called Class Struggle. IMDB says no.
Dangerfield would begin his stand-up
“I’m OK now, but last week I was in rough shape.”
He quit poetry, I mean comedy, to sell
aluminum siding until he was about 45
when some people suddenly remembered him.
He looked like Wallace Stevens in a way.
Stevens was ambivalent about law school
but finished. His farewell to stand-up comedy
was “The Comedian as the Letter C.”
What’s important isn’t getting respect
but letting the silk flower of unhappiness
last forever without rope and without repair.
We need a lot of help. We reward my son’s love
with giraffes, giants in miniature, the umber
and sienna windowpanes of their camouflage.
Remove the weights and fly north. The lion
runs at a thing and eats it, and though I see it coming
I continue to play cards, continue to name the animals.


Ed Skoog was born in Topeka, Kansas. He earned an MFA from the University of Montana. His collections of poetry include the chapbooks Toolkit (1995) and Field Recording (2003) and the full-length volumes Mister Skylight (2009) and Rough Day (2013). Skoog’s work is noted for its wild lexicon and leaping intelligence. The Harvard Review compared Skoog’s work to that of Wallace Stevens and the New York School poets, noting his “verbal montages.” Reviewer Henry Hughes added, “readers must surrender their demands for whole meaning in the narrative sense to enjoy the verbal play—the sounds, phrases, and crazy connections that suggest new ways of reading the world.”

Skoog has taught at the Idyllwild Arts Foundation in Idyllwild, California, the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, and Tulane University. He has been the Jenny McKean Moore Writer in Washington at George Washington University and writer-in-residence at the Richard Hugo House.



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