“My Problem with the World” by Brenda Paro

Brenda Paro


Occurs because pregnant women
wear signs on their bellies
that say they’ve spread their legs.
Because the smell of sewers
rises hot and thick from below
sidewalks, beneath the feet
of suited business men.
Because wherever people congregate
(in office meetings, grocery stores),
it means a room full of genitalia
that would all fit together
if they tried.
Because toilets are pipe ends
sticking out of floors,
inescapable as fact, and
because the handsome boy who
holds the door for the girl
behind him still
makes a sticky mess
on the bed without a condom.
Because the bookstore clerk beams
shyly and holds out Fitzgerald
with a small hand, then
jerks off in the employee bathroom
later, thinking about your ass
while you walked out.
Because your parents had sex
on dirty sheets one day and out
you slid, flaked with wax and wet
with membrane, in a hospital
where someone died messily,
one floor below,
an hour earlier.
Because flies linger around
graveyards, and because
a poem can’t hide forever
what is really happening.
Because the surface
is thin
as human skin,
pulsing with the blood, black
tar and grease
that keep the body
beating and limping along:
each thing pressed
against the next,
like a stranger’s arm
you’re forced to lean against,
without looking at each other,
the entire bus ride home.

from Rattle #30, Winter 2009


Brenda Paro: “We all operate beneath a veneer of euphemism. It’s a necessary artifice; it allows us to get through each day thinking about things like falling in love or balancing a checkbook. Prying up those floorboards, so to speak, creates a weird sense of freedom that is part hopelessness and part elation. It is that feeling that inspired this poem. It is that feeling that I’m chasing, in some form or another, every time I write.” (web)

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