“Chinese Lunar Rover Finds Strange ‘Gel-like’ Substance on Moon” by James Valvis

James Valvis


I suppose most people, upon hearing this story,
think of The Blob, that Steve McQueen flick
where a gelatinous substance consumed
and subsumed suburban people in dark alleys
and movie theaters, before being airlifted
to the azure ice of the Arctic, where I figure
it mutated and dug its way to the Antarctic
and somehow became The Thing. But not me.
I’m thinking about those girls I tried to love,
or tried to date, or at least tried to take to a movie
back in my horrifying high school years,
those Jersey teenage beauties with their bountiful hair
held together by a hairdryer and gallons of hair gel.
Hour after hour they spent poking at themselves
with a pick that looked like a Jason Voorhees weapon,
teasing each black hair into place, naughty nuns
trying to line up all their thin rowdy orphans.
Because of this an average-height guy like me
felt shorter, towering hair turning four-foot-five girls
into leggy Geena Davis, who starred in The Fly,
another example of science causing trouble.
The girls mostly successfully avoided me,
their interest in ceiling architecture profound
in those moments I passed in the hallways
with my saturnine, hopelessly hopeful eyes,
but I had luckier friends and friends will talk.
There would be, my friends said, those moments
they’d try to snake an arm around a girl’s shoulder
and a finger would catch, latch, glued by the gel,
their ring-finger like some hapless fly trapped
in the viscous web of an already vacated spider.
When the girls weren’t turning us into Gimlis
or creating scenes inside seaside cinemas,
their gelled hair rubbed up against the roofs
of my friends’ cars, so after a date or two
large round greasy circles appeared.
I witnessed one of these globular blobs.
Sitting under it was to sit under an oily moon,
the dark side of a moon not much different
than the moon where those damn Chinese
are messing with things they don’t understand.
I think I speak for the entire world when I say
please leave that jellylike shit where you found it.
This is why I never go back to New Jersey.
Some things are better left where they are,
be they found on the moon or in the past.
No need to discover new veins of sorrow.
Steve McQueen is dead, Geena Davis
drove over that cliff with Susan Sarandon,
even The Thing would prefer to go back to sleep,
and I know that after fewer than four decades
almost all of those once achingly beautiful girls
avoid their mirrors like they once avoided me.

from Poets Respond
September 8, 2019


James Valvis: “When I saw this story, surely overshadowed by the hurricane news and whatever people are worked up about politically, I thought to myself that some things are better left where they are. And then I thought of The Blob. And then I thought of those hair gels the girls back in the ’80s used—and maybe some still do. And then I thought about how old we have all gotten. And then I thought, well, I’m sure some people are trying to save the world with their poems, especially when it relates to the news, but I have more conservative literary ambitions. I just want to draw out the humanity in us all.” (web)

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