Poor Claudia published poetry, prose and conversations online and in print from 2009 to 2018.

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Elizabeth Clark Wessel

Four Poems

  • Please List All of the Countries You Have Visited in the Last Ten Years
  • My advice to you is always the same
  • Not Tuesday but on Wednesday
  • world’s shyest extrovert

Please List All of the Countries You Have Visited in the Last Ten Years

In Kenya Adam and Ted played music at a Tiki Bar
We smoked pot on the beach
We found Bianca crying there
That was the year of the Tsunami
Much of the beach had been washed away by the sea
That had happened in Mexico too
We visited our grandparent's timeshare and the Mayan ruins
We rented a car and drove around and contemplated spelunking
But being neurotic we didn't
We thought we were almost through with each other
But we are still alright
We could see the ocean from our bedroom
In Denmark we gave our pot to our neighbors
We went shopping
Melinda bought a skirt
We got drunk at a bar
In Paris we got drunk backstage
The other time in Paris we smoked pot in an apartment
We drank vodka and red bull in our hotel room
before we went to the sex museum
We all made out
We walked for many hours
with our closest friend
and with an acquaintance we ran into on the airplane
We took in what Paris was
since it was raining
We smoked cigarettes and we were unhappy
We kept track of it in a notebook
All of our jokes were about mimes
Another time in Paris we were with family and ate baguettes
In Brighton the pot was stolen from tour manager's hotel room so we smoked no pot
We got drunk backstage
In London we drank on the street
We drank in the park
The fireworks went off for Harry Potter
Not all of them had been written yet
We bought a copy of the new one at a grocery store
We got drunk on the airplane because suddenly we were afraid of flying
In Portugal the hotel had gone out of business
We ate breakfast in Spain
We played Jenga with Sara and Axel at the surfers' bar
We got better at it when we were drunk
In Amsterdam we had brunch
We bought a green hat
We met some Norwegians
In China we read Lyn Hejinian
We saw a sad lion
We walked through Shanghai at night
It was an adventure
and an act of psychogeography
We climbed over a wall and saw that the ancient church had been turned
into a basketball court
In Berlin we played video games and went to museums
We read Goodbye to Berlin
The first time we were in Berlin we read Agatha Christie
and a biography of the Beats
We stayed out all night and had a hangover the whole week
We met Andre's parents
In Edinburgh we were alone most of the time
We read Wuthering Heights
We ran out of money and had to call our mother and ask for money
and then we ran out of that money too
We walked around and around
We were very young then and very skinny
We were afraid of everything and interested in everything
We visited a castle
We talked all night with Brad
We couldn't sleep
We threw up from not sleeping
In Finland someone died
We were there with our mothers
We were in Finland another time after that
In Latvia we went to a buffet
and ate heavy food and climbed to the top of a bell tower
In Costa Rica we danced with a dental student
We ate white lasagna
In Italy we found a shoe store with cheap deadstock
We bought ten pairs of leather-soled shoes
We visited an ancient grotto
Later we wrote a poem about the grotto
in that poem we make it clear we are aware that a life
is very short
like a vacation is very short
We can't think of any other countries that we have been to
And in fact we were in Costa Rica twelve years ago
so we were wrong to include it
though really a decade feels twelve years long
don't you think
We have travelled more than we expected
though not nearly as much as we would have like
and we have liked travelling

My advice to you is always the same

Say it to me
as I would say it to myself
but gently
with great attention to detail
an emphasis on the literal
&the metaphorical as well as
tactfully& with class

you don't know yet what I found
behind the bathroom cabinet
maybe you never will
but you can guess
don't keep me waiting too long

when you speak to me as
I speak to myself
imagine me as you
imagining you speaking
to yourself
without rancor
or disappointment
a pun to soften the blow

my advice to you is always the same
don't be so hard on
yourself
read every contract
thoroughly before
signing it
and again after you sign
to see what might have changed
if you have changed

speak to me while
modulating between
your inside voice and your outside voice
between your bedroom voice
and your kitchen squawk
do it dirtier now
dirtier!
like when you're doing it
to me
you're doing it like I'd do it
to myself

my advice to you is
always the same
check the lock by picking it
leave the scabs on as long as possible
avoid whatever you feel
like avoiding for as
long as that's a workable strategy
don't worry about your weight
get some exercise
speak to me with
air quotes
around the pronoun
"me"
and
"you"

I am bewildered by you
and imagining you as me
has increased my bewildering
when I am bewildered by
you, by imagining
you as
me,
then I am gentlest
most littlest
mouse-like
and soft-footed

where is the gesture
what is the gesture gesturing to

I had a dream
you were angry with me
humiliated
because I did to you
exactly what you have already done to me
but in the dream there was no
satisfaction in the reversal
because I was you
and you were me
doing again
what you have already done to me
but this time doing it
as me

Not Tuesday but on Wednesday

the day has the soft nuzzle of a puppy
the day has the milk breath of a baby
the day waddles a line of ducklings stretching ditch to ditch
you waddle out of sleep
you wade out of bed
you cross the street
wham!
it was as simple as the failure to indicate you'll be turning
nothing is ever that simple says the puppy faced day
and what about the night
well it's not here yet is it
you are concerned by rather than with
the Japanese artists have put on their running shoes
they will run in the symbol of infinity
until the grass gives way
and art wins again
they will try to read each other's minds
but the minds of love
are no better at knowing
which is a fatuous miscalculation
the danger in crossing the street
you waddle
the milk breath day loves itself
cherries blossom
the movie producer races to the center of the world in a circular metal pod
while the astronaut saves the day
the day is thankful
and kisses him
and he takes off his space helmet
the astronaut is a woman!
with long red hair that unfurls like the flag of a lost cause
the day and the woman kiss
passionately
and the people of the town rejoice
their champagne corks make a small dent in the sky

world’s shyest extrovert

are you what you eat
could be the opposite of honey
& still so sweet
this town is full of money
but where is it
I’m almost never lonely anymore
here on the bottom of the sea
floating past the Titanic
counting dead millionaires
reading the paper the old fashioned way
on paper
with a top hat
the smell of toast a spicy ginger carrot soup
bourgeois fixations replace living
I haven’t got anything to say
even to myself
to myself especially
things are easier in groups
hunting for mammoths
avoiding cold
but I admire
the Fed-Ex employee
who delivers a package
after eight years lost at sea
to a recipient
whose beauty signals love
which is what we should feel for our customers
especially when we are our own customer
our best customer

Elizabeth Clark Wessel

Elizabeth Clark Wessel is an editor at Argos Books & Circumference: Poetry in Translation and author of the chapbook Whither Weather (GreenTower Press). Her poems and translations have appeared in DIAGRAM, A Public Space, Guernica, Sixth Finch, Lana Turner Journal, The Laurel Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn, NY and works as a translator.