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Parker Menzimer

Waiting by the Telephone

“No?” Who else might care that “As William James put it
a century ago, ‘Nothing includes everything.’” And that
“the word ‘and’ follows along after every sentence.” And
if you’re reading this, I waited by the telephone; you might
have recognized my outline behind the velvet curtains.
And once you said, “This waiting is salt in the wound.”
This is the romance novel I’m named after (William James
called this “a synthetic scheme”). I made myself someone
you might call when the cherries bloomed at Prospect Park.
I waited by the telephone. And the utterance begins “No.”
And so you said, adding the rest.


That last bit was written in a world where substitutes are
always available. As if between takes, I tend to stand by,
deactivated. To this role I bring my love of cliché,
which brings me closer to what we know. In Berkeley I feel
limited to two positions: loving some unloving marble
and waiting to be loved, recording seedlike California valley
quail scattering. The Berkeley City Club’s disapproving
staff. The winter’s inroads on the mellow climate. My mother
extends a fist of pearly knuckles. Translucent and daily. Am I
her? “Not knowing exactly is something I find fascinating.”


The book of love was certainly plagiarized, copied from
the throats of American birds. For example, I noticed
cryptic arrows beneath your seat cushion: experience,
subtext, and a thank-you note. Everyone, someday,
will regret a word spoken in anger to a child, then die
comparing unit prices in a windowless room. With an
eyeball dependent on the inversion of the original picture.
With a love of the derivative and its interoperability.
In an anagram of some stock phrase, you might recognize
my outline.


Frankly, as someone who feels always trapped in a “synthetic
scheme,” I’ve relied on backward glances. Retinal after-effects.
A love of obedience. As the obviousness of night ironizes
the amorous encounter, this morning, I decoded the sidewalk
graffiti. It follows a sunken, meandering creek, shunted
beneath the city sidewalk. Waterways buried in urban landscapes
remind me of my own childhood, and childhood generally. And
today, once again, “today, transfigured leaves individuate
corruption.” From my position, huddled next to a public
telephone, I make illegible notes on the outdoors.


To my point: I feel alert to afterimages, having stared
too long and looked too late. Now the wet paint on my cheek
seems reflected in the window’s predawn dark. Though it’s said
that the life of a leading man drags the leading man along with it,
I see muqarnas above the wainscotting; fingers loosely
interlaced; Ikea flatware scattered across the floor; red wax
from a votive candle frozen to the sideboard. I’ve wish for this
life to be more like a tessellation, where proliferation
adds nothing that might really accumulate. Wherever I’ve lived,
I’ve struggled to see my own bedroom. Only afterimages
on a painted surface. Then, singing begins: delicately, amorously.


Poem beginning with the line “My own name struck me like a bullet”

My own name struck me like a bullet
Without one particular fault, lacklustering
You should not have apologized, feeling is art
Technopharmacological comforts – ruined, I felt

Ruined palaces cannot but advertise
Their walls, I feel their well-versed blank misuse
You are no comfort at all within your means
And I cannot but feel – amphetamine

Without one particular fault, the Paul Klees
Disappear like a hopeless neglected wink
Docents heavy with particulars
Round the amphoralike stair, starry-eyed

The shockfest survives exegesis
Undeified magpie’d divinization


Poem beginning with the line “I’m sorry Marianne, it may be the altitude”

I’m sorry Marianne, it may be the altitude
My finger upraised, my trolley glamourized
I have a serious nature, brow-beaten, too high
A working knowledge of unwholesome winners
I feel

Nonexcellence, not wholesome, raspberries
Accustomed, unaccounted precapitulation
Microcritters, in Cuba & Mexico I enclose
Dearest Marianne, with joy and misunderstandings

Today transfigured leaves individuate corruption
Invalidators and goofazoids, greying not
Graying at the temples, a diagnosis
En plein air, I take my foodstuffs inside

I seem to miss the season every year
Dewinged, unlanguaged matrimonialis


Poem ending with the line “The corrupted darlings went for a nude swim

Once dismissed, I witnessed Cartoon Network
Circling the celestial orifice
The broken ozone gave a setting
To stage my formless basement play

The ground for opioids to burgeon handsomely
Rebar makes any utopia enhanced
We do know by whose bodies by what lengths
American larpers get deputized

Atilt, in high relief, on the right shoulder
Of despair, more unloaded heavy clips sound
In unhurried air, define the weather
Send us to heaven in a barrel

Save any Tuesday, Tuesday before noon
The corrupted darlings went for a nude swim


Poem ending with the line “The lenses & prisms & the balsam”

The overblunt speechifier watches
Through lenses & prisms, his pewter spoon
Stirring an oversteamed puppucino
I never saw any one idling
So stupidly

I badly want to be counterpresent
An anyman playing unrandom themes
I want so badly to get something good
Done in New York with my binoculars

Did someone put spam in my word salad
A shabby, makeshift, sorry day
I feel myself to be disownably
Watching life through optical instruments

Pale vulgar instruments of every kind
The lenses & prisms & the balsam



PARKER MENZIMER is the author of the chapbook The Links (1080press, 2022). He works as Public Programs Manager at the Poetry Society of America, an adjunct lecturer in the Department of English at Brooklyn College, and an editor of Topos Press. He has lived and worked in New York since 2009.

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