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Prairie Schooner 80.2 (2006) 41-43

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Heartbreak Hotel, and: Footnote: On the Upbringing of My Parents Dying 24 Hours ( A Vast Distance ), Apart

Heartbreak Hotel


We find ourselves in the lobby of this poem
& already your slouch gives you away:
how you've memorized the landscape
of your shoe-tops. No worry,

things can only go up from here.
Of course, I'm joking. One therapist (You
have one, don't you?) – describes evil
as phantasm. Well, it's America. Everyone

   has a right to his own . . . Hold it,

I'm here to help – to aid you in becoming
more functional. Yes, functional.
Meaning: Let's do things my way.
Begin on the downbeat of the conductor's baton.


The poem becomes more mystifying,
more mist-defying. Since we've not yet
established who you are – permit me to be your guide,
dog. Sit. Speak. Roll over. Play [End Page 41]

dead. Give your self credit. Three out of four
isn't bad. You're not playing around –
are you? Perhaps you feel (think
would be a bit of a stretch) – I'm

   being too hard on you.

Perhaps you feel a little angry, over-
wrought, confused, unglued.
Maybe the opposite: under-rested,
emotionless, wooden.

You've just never
been good enough –
have you, dear?

Pick out your room.
Be still little dummy.
Lie down.
Go to sleep in your box.

Footnote: On the Upbringing of My Parents Dying 24 Hours (A Vast Distance), Apart

When they were done with the work of breathing
– which is not to say, exactly, life
Mother & Father reconciled their differences, [End Page 42]

a galaxy, as it were, in number.
It was never a conscious decision on their part.
Only on mine, longing one last time, to see them at peace.

I would like to state they parted the world as friends.
But in fact, neither had any friends, making them (of course,
by the process of elimination),

friendless, meaning: having no favors to bestow,
no fortune, addicted to the utterance of truth, nowhere to go
but up.

Robert Nazarene is the founding editor of Margie/The American Journal of Poetry and the author of Church (IntuiT House Poetry Series). His work has appeared in Ploughshares, Beloit Poetry Journal, and elsewhere.



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