WHY WE DRINK
I tell Malik I’m going to stop. I tell him that I do it
because I am sad and because someone
was mean to me at a lecture after five men
spoke during the Q&A so I said something, finally,
about energy and petrocultures and didn’t the infrastructure
of the moon landing look just like the oil fields
of Alberta and some older Italian man said no, said I was
projecting as if projection was not interpretation
but it was in front of a lot of people and what
was the point of all my degrees and giving up a decade
of life to school if I could be so easily humiliated and maybe
I shouldn’t have worn jeans shredded at my thighs
or that navy sweater, sleeves blooming with moth holes
but if these are our left institutions, if these are the men
on our side, I said, then of course, I am going to drink.
Malik tells me you can’t quit before thirty five
because you’re not going to stay quit
and something about me trusts him because
he was at the Ear Inn back when it was the Ear Inn,
back in the old New York and he tells me I am
the new New York and I don’t even know how
to tell him that I am not even that.
I say, humiliation is like the nausea of childhood with
those delayed epiphanies. I hate the violence of insight—
how the lesson is always how one is ugly or dishonest,
the short-comings that could build a civilization and then did.
Malik is not even so much older, forty-something but there have been
many Maliks and therefore he claims ancientness. He says it’s all real.
My parents and those men and yes, even the feeble species.
He keeps a notebook and writes down all the great Irish bits
spiraling out of Helen’s mouth at dinner. He sits cross-legged
on a pillow, cradles lemons and snacks on pickle, waxes poetic
while he assesses the spice level of a green Peruvian sauce I make
which he only ranks a three for spice but insists
that it is a ten in taste because he knows I am fragile.
He does impressions of nutritionists and people who get jazzed
about gym memberships but I know, though we are laughing,
that he is really sad. Sad that this is the theater of his multitasking
that the corruptions are multiplying faster than our jokes
so we have become creatures who can slip through
dimensions, our times thick with simultaneity, so ready
we are to be brutalized many times a day. Even with laughter.
Malik says maybe it’s time to leave New York. He can tell
we’re all getting tilted there, and by that he means
becoming products, paralyzed by false moonlight in the streets.
I tell Malik I drink because I am tired and because they hate us anyways
and we are outside while others smoke at the opening
of The Red Wheelbarrow in Paris and I’m wearing a polka dot dress
and I forgot to put on a bra this morning and it is freezing
and I see myself, the mess of my complaints and temperatures, the way
I am not making any sense these days. He says yes and yes and yes.
He keeps saying it is all okay, all real, tells me to turn my insights
into continents, into paintings. Get sloppy, delicate. Be a feral amateur.
When I get back to New York, he is the only one I still talk to on the regular.
He says “Listen to this” and “Read this” and his brain is so addicted to joy
and we both get nominated for a prize in the same week and it works
it really does work, the way his spirit skims octaves across the ocean
into my heart, into this poem, the way he said my Jesus year
now that I’m thirty-three is going to reveal something about me
which it just did and do you know, this time the revelation
didn’t hurt so much. Which is what Malik might call aging
a process not nearly as dire as they want you to believe.
—from Poets Respond
January 6, 2019
Megan Fernandes: “I wrote this New Year’s poem after the British Film Institute announced its new programming on ‘Bitches,’ which will feature films only directed by men about ‘shrewd, social climbing broads’ and ‘self-destructive chicks’ for June 2019. And it’s also a partial homage to a new friend in Paris, Malik, who seems to understand that crux of disappointment, rage, and frustration women feel about these institutions, which by the nature of being institutions, are conservative and patriarchal. I so am tired of this dollar store cultural discourse of liberation.” (web)