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American Soliloquy: A Long Poem for Trying Times / Dan Russell


Life tastes like the remnants of cunnilingus, 

Like the salad dressing served in Japanese restaurants -- 

bittersweet and metallic. Not everyone likes it.

Some people do. 

 

Those people get everything. Trust funds, mistresses, a lake house,

a boat named Serendipity. The rest of us enjoy simply surviving

another day in public, dodging bullets.

Nothing begets nothing.

 

That is why I still despise elbow macaroni and government cheese.

WIC, SNAP, food stamps, welfare, I've eaten them all. 

They keep you alive, some, 

but you die inside.

 

I still die a little every month when my mailbox 

births another bouncing baby bill I have to feed. 

I am drowning underwater; I’ve got the bends.

Broke Cousteau.

 

Sing a song of sixpence, and I will sing of needing sixty more.

I'm twenty short, the water cooler bottle lies tipped onto

my hopes and dreams. I'm resting, thinking of…

Nights on the beach.

 

I jump, that weird jump, the one you perform quickly 

when frightened by sleep. My body summoned Nadia Comaneci. 

I landed it perfectly.

I am on the couch.

 

I am not on some lazy river, not screaming 

on some careening rollercoaster. I am listless, drifting, 

soon to be stove in by some Mocha Dick bill collector, 

but this time, the whale wields the harpoon.

 

There is no joy in Mudville, There is only me in Whoville. 

Always asking, "Who are you calling for? Who is it you need? 

Are you sure I am who you need?"

I am a bad credit phantom.

 

Cut my taxes, cut my throat. What really brings the most relief?

I am not the 1%. I am whom America thinks brings home the bacon.

I am a pig.

 

I am America's dirty little secret, her man on the other side of town.

I am also her Yankee cuckold dandy, playing the part and enjoying no reward. 

Middle class… shit,

 

I'm not even near the first skittle-colored foothold on a climbing wall.

I can't even join the gym where that wall lives. I can't afford to eat anything

but saturated fat.

 

I enlisted to serve under Dollar General. I march down the aisles, looking to capture 

some unbelievable deal of the week. This week's mission is a case of Ramen Noodles. 

$2. A POW.

 

I am a carnivore who cannot afford meat. I became a vegetarian last year, not because 

I think animals have souls, but because it is the cheapest way to save my own hide.

PETA, don't @ me. 

 

I  don't wear fur. I don't look good in leather. 

I love a ribeye steak. I am a hypocrite, 

a blasphemer against the theology of holy photosynthesis. 

 

Jesus was a carpenter.

He must have cut down trees. So, I cannot believe he was the communist hippie the Bible 

tells me he was always walking around in sandals and crashing on his friend's couches. 

I had a roommate once.

 

He was a preacher and a slob. He left his dishes in the sink and his laundry piled everywhere.

I guess the poison apple doesn't fall far from Calvary's tree. Save me from this, Jesus; 

He does not get it. 

 

I came home one day from work at lunch and found him naked on the couch.

He was a youth pastor. His job was to corral God's flock. He was good at it, I guess.

I have yet to see his mugshot.

 

Blessed are the little children. They know how to sext. 

They bully guys like I was then. 

I have more now than I did. I don't wear second-hand clothes anymore. 

We don't have class reunions.

 

I haven't seen some of my classmates since I tossed my academic cap toward my future. 

One thing they don't tell you is the people you want to die in high school live forever.

God takes your friends. 

 

He took my best friend. I am not sure if he was perfect. He was a preacher once, too.

Methodist, I think, but it didn't last long. Religion never does. It usually clears itself up 

in about a year.

 

Where does this leave a man so unsure of the purpose of this biological diorama?

Where is the comfort for him? It is not in Him. It cannot be. He would not let me suffer. 

Jesus wept.

 

I think he cried because he understood that he was just rambling about the countryside 

telling anyone who would listen that the world was evil and to know true happiness

you had to BELIEVE!

 

You had to believe it would be better tomorrow, and the misery of this life would not last.

No one listened except the government. They made Him the bad guy. Can you believe that?

Just crucify me.

 

Nail me up like some Farrah Fawcett poster and let the rich continue to jack off thinking about how much of an asset I am to the nation. Loads and loads of hot, sticky gratitude, 

All for me.



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DAN RUSSELL is a writer. His work has appeared in The Arkansas Review, Cowboy Jamboree, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, The Tributary, Close to the Bone, and You Might Need to Hear This. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Concordia University-St. Paul.


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