Nick Carbó is the author of four books of poems, the latest being Chinese, Japanese, What are These? (Pecan Grove Press, 2009). He has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts. His work has been featured on NPR and PBS.
……..Q: Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
……..A: I’d rather not give a dinner party.
I’ve always wondered what kind of candies
Yoko Ono gave away at Halloween, or what
sort of napkin holders graced her parties.
She has earned the right not to have dinner guests,
even in her most psychedelic dreams. I wonder
what kind of dreams my mother had during
her last dry days of Alzheimer’s disease. My mother,
who loved giving parties, who made
this fabulous appetizer of stilton cheese wrapped
in rice paper and flash fried to be served piping hot
on a sterling silver tray. Her fingers
gnarled into the curve of the letter g,
her eyes would dart back and forth under the lids
as if she were dreaming of her two pet
dogs, Peewee and Calcium. She took
nineteen days to let go. Perhaps she waited
those many nights for all her guests to arrive—
Santa Teresa de Avila, La Virgen de Guadalupe,
San Franciso de Assissi, and loved ones
like her father over there, who’s pouring the wine.
my ninety-three-year old father
asked over the phone
if I used metaphors
in my poems. Like
Federico Garcia Lorca,
he said, who used metaphors
like a French baker uses yeast.
I told my father my poems
were simple, as simple as pan de sal
or more apropos, unleavened bread.
Well, why don’t you send
me some of your matzo ball poetry?
He said. At my age I can
only digest simple things.
nec mirum, penitus quae tota mente laborant
What sort of crank would write a song for his bride
after the divorce? No, it’s about me, not you. Said
the poet, who, from now on, would always refer to himself
in the third person, because that’s how his life
had become. A mysterious omniscient narrative voice
forcing him to wiggle his toes or scratch his left armpit—
not unlike Malte Laurids Brigge feeling gespenstisch.
Or is it more like Gregor Samsa in Die Verwandlung
being alienated in a Sartrean sense? Holy Crap!
There he goes again, making me search Google
after every seven or eight lines. This dude really needs
to get a life. Hey, is our professor torturing us
by assigning this book? I bet he’ll give the class
another pop quiz with sneaky questions like
“Who is the true speaker in the poem Epithalamion?”
Not funny, Carbó, you’re getting all these voices
confused in my head!—penetrating my skull
like those parasitic Cordyceps Fungi that attack ant
brains and shoot out a stem from their heads to mature
and spread more deadly mushrooms. The poet took
another drag from his cheap British cigarette, made sure
his line breaks were not limp. He got spooked
when he heard a woman’s voice on the radio “love life,
love music” announce the easy listening station tag line.
He thought, momentarily, that it was his ex-wife haunting him
for leaving her. The next day he stumbled onto
Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major while surfing the web
and he was reacquainted with an instinct, no, emotion
that got all this poetry writing started. Divorce is not
the end of love. It’s a process of starting to fall out
of love, its miserable grip. This was the piece he picked
to be played at his wedding as his bride came down
the aisle. Okay, Carbó, that’s one hell of a caesura
you gave me. I listened to your reference and pictured
the bride walking in tune with the music. I thought
you’d never get to the intent of the Epithalamion.
The poet opened his pack of cigarettes, pressed
replay. He noticed the warning sign in large letters
“Smoking kills.” What do you think he did next?