- What the Dead Know, and: Easy Money, and: Stranger, and: Recent Cosmological Observations, and: Baffled
"The idea for 'Recent Cosmological Observations' came years ago, after seeing a young woman working at a deli. Her insufficient-looking, tiny, white teeth appeared just strewn around her mouth, and, like lots of things in the world, this seemed inexplicable and sad, suggestive of a god absolutely asleep at the wheel. The poem was on a back burner until I read the Scientific American phrase concerning parallel universes. 'Easy Money,' too, was inspired by an event many years ago, a horrific car crash involving four teenage boys; in the case of one of them, a friend of mine, I remember a lot of flipping for coins earlier on, a real fad for a while at recess but, as the poem reports, especially with him.
"'What the Dead Know' was prompted by the thought of friends and family who've died. I like to imagine a god who's secretly at work on Earth, though, as in maybe having His office behind a plumbing supply store. It's a good way not to think of the end as being, as Phillip Larkin beautifully put it, '… nothing to think with, nothing to love or link with…." As for 'Stranger,' the quote from Mary Oliver afforded me a chance to play with the notion of strangers and groups of strangers somewhere in the far future. Finally, 'Baffled' is from my own family background." [End Page 165]
- What the Dead Know
They know to keep quiet.But they would tell you don't worry.They would tell you there'ssloping gentle fields and a marvelous light.They'd whisper, Mister,take it easy, they would signal, Madam, buy a hat.They would tell you start again, rent a room, moveforward, breathe a little, read a little,take a walk, watch your step.They would tell you Godwears plaid pants, six-eyeletoxfords, and a wristwatch, Helbros, gold.They would tell you God'sa girl in third grade knotting Her shoe.They would tell you God's a man with cracked glassesmowing His yard, or He lives with Lilly,His wife, and a son named Sal.They would tell you He works in auto body repairand plays the guitar.They would tell you He's thought up Himself,that He thinks up botany and basketball,eczema, mustard and mayhem.They would tell you He makes up the mallsand the back alleys, the droplets, and the tiny specksand spores, and the long, loud partiesthat reach deep into the morning and meanfor someone a meeting, for someonea mating and for someone a crashedyellow Chevy and a trip to the joint.They would say He makes up the frowsy freewaysand the dirty everyday, or that regarding a white cloudin the shape of a thumbless glove, He thinks up breakfastwith bacon that sizzles and curls on itself like a lie though Hemay never speak of this even to Himself.What do the dead know?They've signed on to keep quiet, [End Page 166] but if they could tell you they would,and if they could they would comfort you.They'd tell you, Go on and be happy, try it.You would. [End Page 167]
Mark Kraushaar has new work appearing or forthcoming from Michigan Quarterly, Ploughshares, the Gettysburg Review and New Ohio Review and has been included in Best American Poetry. He has been a recipient of Poetry Northwest's Richard Hugo award, and his full-length collection, Falling Brick Kills Local Man, (University of Wisconsin Press), is winner of the 2009 Felix Pollak Prize.
- Easy Money
For Eddie Shaugnessy (1952–1968)
By fifth grade he was pitching pennies,and by sixth grade he was flipping for dimes, orwe all were, or some of us, but this was mostlyEddie's thing and in no time he'd advancedto quarters with the older kids.Wanna bet? he'd say,and biting his lip...