Last Night I Ordered a Hang Glider from Australia

Five poems by P. Scott Cunningham

Last Night I Ordered a Hang Glider from Australia

Bidart & Lowell

After you were dead, I worked
non-stop at night sewing
your poems back together, or where
necessary, pulling them
apart, subsisting on tear-

and-eat items at the gas station
on the corner, push-button
milkshakes, microwaveable
popcorn. I picked my body up
like a folding suitcase

every morning and every
night hung it back up
in the closet, in love with that
weightlessness, hating feeling
heavy and useless

one leg still a little longer
than the other, a dead father
and mother, the history
of cinema before 1960 playing
on loop inside my brain.

One day I’m Janet Gaynor
in the Parisian sewers, another,
I’m the mountain in The Searchers
John Wayne is walking toward
and then I’m the ranch house door

that closes on itself
to consecrate the darkness,
the liquid border dividing
the Country of Time from
the Country of Loss.

O, my mentor, my minotaur,
the hospital where you held
my hand is gone, and with it
the labyrinth and the latticework,
the chandeliers of tubes,

the horrible food, the buffet
of ways to be dead and still falling
in love with how the light blinds
the television, how the body stays
exactly where you leave it

laid across the crux of sheets
like Helen Hayes in A Farewell
to Arms,
a pillow for an aureole,
and no one to lift you up
so I lift you up now —

I take your body to
the cherry blossoms, the bell choir,
the thawing lake, the din of the armistice.
You weigh almost nothing.
My arms are giving way.

Dover Beaches

The sea is a bomb tonight.
The moon illuminates it
Like a yard light keeps the yard from going black
Like an embassy flies a single flag or a church
Choir stands in unison to sing.
The sea is an invitation,
A car on fire, an unopened letter.

Long ago, so-and-so heard it
Speaking to him through the legs
Of a table. You know how
Table legs can be unstable, one a little shorter
Than the other so the table wobbles?
It’s a small thing but it’s a reason
To eat hemlock, to put rocks in your pockets,
To run through the temple screaming.

The Sea is the Earth
Humanless and impenetrable. It swallows
Light and air and deposits
What’s left
At its outermost exterior or gathers it
On the surface in swirls the size
Of Texas; at its heart, the sea is clean
And cold and uninhabitable.

Ah, Love, should we even bother
Touching one another? You’re married.
I have psoriasis, and we’re inside this
FedEx Office making flyers
For a pet we promised to protect
And now is lost and likely dead, or worse.
The world is a bad, awful, no-good place.
We are the world.

Wagner & Nietzsche

They first met in his office. Wagner
showed Nietzsche the view of the water.
The younger man looked down and felt dizzy.
The view is what makes a god, Wagner said.
They could see every border of the city.

Nietzsche must have looked like the water, too.
One thick coat of sunlight across the chrome
of surface and the mystery of depth.
To Nietzsche, Wagner was an office:
the perfect chair, the perfect desk.

The oldest crime on record is a young man
falling in love with an older one.
Another word for it is fatherhood.
We know the world is flawed for good
because the world requires it.

Let us gather to celebrate
our fathers, our father says. The world
was better before we entered it.
Every son is a curse carrying
the antidote inside of him.

When Nietzsche stopped coming
to Bayreuth, Wagner’s wrath
was sad and comical. In public,
he rebuked his adopted son. In private,
he missed everything about him.

O Father who is not my Father
I forgive you, Nietzsche wrote.
I forgive you for doing what you do.
When the Good Father finds your door,
I will feed his horse a sugar cube.

Stealing Someone’s Favorite Word

Scott Cunningham’s poems, essays, and translations have appeared in Harvard Review, The Awl, A Public Space, RHINO, Los Angeles Review of Books, Tupelo Quarterly, Monocle, and The Guardian, among others. He lives Miami, FL where he serves as the director of O, Miami and the executive editor of Jai-Alai Books.

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