Four Poems by John Ling

Strivers

We impersonate ourselves
badly but are getting better
saying “the pancetta
was a little underdone dear
but I loved the macaroons”
to seem impartial
about this new habit
different from the old habit
in its bigger forkfuls
and longer silences
its reminder our bodies
are to be shared
like the city park where
on an August day
under a flat stone
rest a dozen green slugs
who have known the world
in all its hardness
and chosen each other

 

After Roman Holiday

You are riding a stolen Vespa
down the wrong side of my heart
hapless gelato vendors

diving out of your way
the florist and the barber giving chase
scissors and daisies raised

yes you are in jail now but this is nothing
a dash of American charm
cannot fix

some days we are the FAO Schwarz piano
children stomping on us
for music’s sake

other days we are red stockinged figurines
in the Sears Wish Book
blushing at our chance to be picked

you tell me not to hide my emotions
but just today I saw one
out in public

princess waving to paparazzi
the whole city clamoring
to know its name

 

Optimists

It turns out everyone has done a bad thing
or two yet we all continue
drizzling balsamic on the ripe tomatoes
stocking our nightstands with pills
setting our bookshelves in order
not alphabetically but by color

the world is big
and full of people you can call
Darling even if only while affecting
a Mid-Atlantic accent
at a Roaring Twenties party where someone
dressed as a flapper says

Prohibition was a doozy
prompting everyone at the punch bowl
to nod darkly and imagine
passwords without symbols
or capitalized letters

we’ve all had brushes with clairvoyance
which has never gone out of style
just changed outfits
now in the Bay Area they’re trying
to bottle and sell it
you too can predict the next winner
of the World Series
and with a simple survey find out
which people you may love

the sun settles into my bed
pushing me out into the world
who am I to resist the beginning
of a day that might turn out
to have you in it

 

Transaction

Kathy you know my full name and social
security and how much I spent
at 7-Eleven on Tuesday at 2:03 A.M. and I know
this conversation will be recorded
for quality purposes
and dollar bills get thrown in the wash
by accident and generosity
gets mistaken for kindness Kathy
I’m not worried about theft
how can my identity get stolen
when even I’m not sure where it is
I have searched my apartment
and found only dental floss
and Camembert why talk
about overdraft fees
when there are so many new ways to love people
and only the same old ways
to be hurt
look at the city parks full
of newlyweds with matching
Lycra jogging suits
for themselves
and their dogs Kathy
right now you could tear off
your headset and nametag and storm
out into the pounding world
of steel drums and subwoofers
winter is over and here
on the corner is a man
with tiger stripe tattoos
handing a cup of shaved ice red
as a new Corvette to a kid
out past her curfew
for the first time

 

John Ling is a drummer and composer based in New York. His writing has appeared in Rust + Moth.

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