Did you hear about the Morgans?
2009, Sarah Jessica Parker
Don’t bother with my life, I’m tiresome,
I’d interfere with your crops,
I’d roll my eyes at refrigerators that run red with meat
like canals and like the streets of far away places and castes
you read about in English class.
Summer’s a green and brown patched snow hill waiting to happen;
These unsuspecting tiles and images are common species
of the West.
Simple people raise chickens and become frustrated;
again birds are watched and studied,
wings are here again in buckets—
these simple folk shun the speed of desperate New York
and plain-spoke tan faces like Mary Steenburgen won’t mask
the watchful man knew this. I stay away from him because
he knows where to separate the meat from the bones,
and he knows the diligent thud of an axe,
he knows the contours of a deep Western hat.
The watchful man’s long face knows the secrets in the muscular pulp
and has seen the sinews run dry of blood, he’s seen them ghost white.
Oh, faces in rural slots,
eyes peering through decaying barnwood,
Run, always run.
Run from the city, wait in the car while I ask my parents to help us pay for a U-Haul from New York to Iowa.
That first day of Spring
I feel my innards swell like (Mid) Western wood
as it goes cold to hot to cold again.
Fear is the new lexicon of marriage, first and foremost
because that must be why we aren’t married, it must
explain late nights Mary Steenburgen’s earnest countenance, shaky voice
and continued roles.
The watchful man sees movies like scrolls late into the night.
You know it’s always been like this.
This true heart, caged, will always fall in love.
Brown mesas cut into tan after tan again,
and I’m not sure what for. Love, maybe.
2009, Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson
What you want are simple things. But someone else complicates them. And we live to reach the apex. Skin has a silk sheen. Hair has long wiry run like stockyards. Stockings keep the bad skin from getting out. Running, running. Your makeup. Your mannequin. And we all feel like this but someone needs to say it. But we all are running into another café. Into another beehive catacomb salon. Our mothers were nails and machines affixed to tables. And eyes are layered upon like historic buildings caked in mortar. And actress is a secondary term and empowerment is an almost-as-high platform for the secondary. Follow your friends past sleepy men, as if working, in a long line. Everyone is just a snippet away from vomiting. Here it comes again. That cute toy dog is chained to a fence outside a busy restaurant. And we all go to the bachelorette party and everyone has a moment. And everyone’s cocktails are bright. And you rip an outfit and there are dozens more. Diamonds, chocolates, fruit baskets, piles of sheen-waxed flowers are melting supports of falling architecture. Moments like pink tiny presents in black lace bows, like eggshell white bags with silver letters. For the guests. Welcome, welcome. The room is fortunate with white. Friends by proximity, red fingernail sized snacks on trays. Women like spider webs, their brown hair in careful trusses. Their chatter and when they do they put their hands on their chests and look as if they’ll say “I know” at every moment. They are all waiting for their moment and the hallway is narrowing. Their eyes warm from the pressure. Beauty is an adjective, noun, and verb. But what it really is runs like blood into drains in the floors of the abattoirs. Purchase it prepackaged and you won’t know. And the man who caged it works a job in finance and has pattern baldness. His eyes look ahead and if he had a thought balloon what would be in it would be what he was looking at. And he looks sitting in his unfurled tux and says you are beautiful slowly but steadily. And he is thinking that and for a minute it’s like your arm has slipped through the bars of a cage and you feel inside from the outside. Here come the blades, quick, a wobbling mirage. That is what grateful means. And New York, it’s been such a journey. Smiling Hispanic limo drivers, black assistants with PDAs and sass. We all learn together and swirl like think, warm fluid down tiled floors with drains. I’m about to scream. People learn to protect themselves in this place where architecture is the heel of a high heel. Always almost as high as the highest but getting closer. Please don’t do this. Your best friend became your worst enemy for the same reasons she was your friend. And Candice Bergan’s in it and she pauses a lot. She’d bind the feet of concubines if she wasn’t an actress. And you turn your head with your eyes closed and this is a moment. Now it’s your time. And you shift in your chair. And it’s funny to prepare for war. And strike your sister when she doesn’t expect it. And there’s nothing there. Call this the female war. I don’t know why I am so afraid all the time anymore. And you were kept because you were wild.
Sex and the City 2
2010, Sarah Jessica Parker
Watch this: you do it for the nestling, et al. But I do it because I’m obsessed secretly with oil—the pores, the fluid running down like all the slime I ever saw fall on Nickelodeon shows in the 90s. We have pizza and movie night like when my brother and I were babysat. To sleep next to you is to be an avocado. These warm options include tears. Our skins rub off gently. Under my beard is the face of a boy still alone and the tv shows glow pencil moods on my face. Look in through the window at the picture of me single. Look in through the back on my imagined sleeping. This is me defending myself through the silhouettes you see in the window of dishes and bills on the kitchen table. These noodles are also a part of me. The stopper came loose when I was young and I heard about it but didn’t know how to stop it. Look in on the notebooks about moonlight but it’s stormed every Iowa night since you left. Would you believe that when I heard the wind blow through the broken shades I thought I heard an Arabian folk song and I held my phone for a moment like a boy with bread. Look in through this long cage of rain at me rapping the floor with my toes. You’d think there were places it never rains and colorful women like cartoons carry diamonds endlessly. Although through that off-rhythm I noticed I had stopped being what I would be and became what I could have been. Although, I’ll say although.
The Family Stone
2006, Sarah Jessica Parker
On the occurrence of family, I run but slowly. Not like a fugitive but like a blue eyed actress down a beach. Any generation will do.
The family space, this time an aunt’s small house, often a joke, is filled with heat on Thanksgiving. I took Becky by the hand, led her in. We like children kicked stones.
You could be an actress, my aunt said. Anyway, we played out the parts in front of the family.
Sure we enjoy where we’re living. My cousin drank until she spun barefoot in the yard lit from the
top silhouette of her black dress by her iPhone.
Crabgrass and wire fence married in blue dark.
Between bites my aunts and uncles consider Becky and I, look at the bases of our
naked stump fingers; few rings if cut, certainly.
Before we all watched a movie since grandpa died, I also knew light and the funny stories it would tell
Becky as she closed her eyes and smiled, asleep from another day. This is not to say we’re married to family,
just survivors of events, cartographers of shallow roots. You know the roots of plants laying in suburban backyards before they’re planted.
Stringy and yellow before they’re in the ground. On thanksgiving we pick and bake them rubbed in butter.
My brother spills his plate on the floor and there’s a clang, someone hollers about what’s going on,
and my uncle laughs loudly as his wife appears to be looking out the window.
No, she’s looking
at the contours the light makes from the inside. Your mom doesn’t get not eating meat at all, Becky says, but mom’s talking again.
This is not to say we’re jealous of jello molds and shimmering trays of large bird parts.
I myself have been known to tear the lose skin and toss aside my own vanity and grease-soaked napkins into the sink.
In and out of night falling, when the last red drops of wine bead and crust on pink tablecloths, we’ve been known to occur,
you can see our traces like root paths in the soft banks.
Nail this to the wall, wait for blood.
Russell Jaffe holds an MFA in poetry from Columbia College in Chicago and currently teaches English and poetry in Iowa City. His poems have appeared in Shampoo, MiPOesias, Spooky Boyfriend, The Portland Review, and others. He loves his partner Becky, bad romantic comedies, and writing poems. Another great love of his, hot sauce, is caressed and oft fed on his review blog Good Hurts. Still a love more distant than language/form and hot sauce is pro wrestling, which he is preparing to speak about at the Midwest Pop Culture Association in October.