Hallmark has nice sentiments, but they meander the gentle slopes of meadows laced with buttercups pollinated by crisp dollar bills. And we are too smart for the platitudes of enterprises that print treacle for profit. At least that's what William and Mary say. Though they annually ask us for money, so they would say that anyway. There is also no denying the obvious: we have been lucky - so far. Though we have stumbled on rocky trails, slipped on slick foothills and blundered over blue ridges, we've never had to scale the Himalayas. So while there have been obstacles, we have overcome them hand in hand. But perhaps that is simply the Hallmark card in me speaking - the one that blithely assumes our journey has been one and the same. Maybe your path has been different. Maybe you climb Himalayan peaks everyday. Maybe I am being foolish and insecure. But that exhausted look on your face suggests you ran uphill for miles today while I walked meters on smooth linoleum. Then there are these scattered scraps of paper - fuzzy phrases that spawn insipid poems parading my mostly muddled thoughts on everything. You can find them everywhere. And then there's you. Furtively writing in a diary I can never find. And I have looked everywhere. Luvgood Carp, Editor-in-Chief First published in Blue Lake Review
The dangers are legion, but this post pertains to mockery.
The harshest, obviously, is from your parents. “You are wasting your time and embarrassing the family,” my father says. Then he adds. “No one reads them anyway.”
“How can my poems embarrass the great Carp name if no one reads them?”
“Your unread poems aren’t the embarrassment. You are.”
My mother is gentler. “Muckypants, can you really be a poet if no one reads your poems?”
“You read my poems, Mom.”
“Oh, yes, that’s . . . right. Of course, I do. They’re very . . . quite long, aren’t they?”
Well, I think they’re only as long as they need to be.”
“Oh, bless your heart.”
As anyone from Roanoke will tell you – if someone says “bless your heart,” you just said something stupid.
Luvgood Carp, Chief Editor and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans
The dangers are legion, but I will focus on the primary ones. This post deals with self-loathing.
There is one constant when you pretend to be a poet – rejection. 117% of my poems have been rejected by poetry journals I have never heard of. I don’t think I even sent a poem to some of them. Have poetry journals joined the military-industrial complex? Do they use blanket rejections as pre-emptive strikes?
It takes a massive ego to suffer these slings and arrows. I forget who coined that phrase. It was probably McDonald’s. Fortunately, a massive ego is the only thing about me that’s big. Wait, that came out wrong. Good thing I haven’t posted this yet.
Luvgood Carp, Chief Editor and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans
About a quarter into Patricia Lockwood’s No One is Talking About This , a character declares “[y]our attention is holy.” This is true, but it doesn’t seem like it in the portal – Ms. Lockwood’s term for the internet. That’s because everyday your “attention must turn, like the shine on a school of fish, all at once, toward a new person to hate. Sometimes the subject was a war criminal, but other times it was someone who made a heinous substitution in guacamole.” This is among the most apt and poetic descriptions of the internet. And the first half of this thoughtful and engaging story examines the internet’s weird vagaries and addictive adrenaline. And at times you will think you are reading poetry.
The main character, who is never named, is a woman who became famous in the portal (a “communal stream-of-consciousness”) for a single five-word post. After it went Corona-viral, people from all over the world invite her to lecture about the “new communication.” Frequently, her comments are inane, but so is the portal – so it works. She travels everywhere, shares bizarre opinions about everything, and because the world is connected, her name (whatever it is – perhaps it doesn’t matter) is now recognized everywhere. Still, oddly, she feels disconnected. “This did not feel like real life, exactly, but nowadays what did?” It brings her to that universal question asked by anyone who has been on social media for more than one hour straight. Have I been wasting my time? Probably, but let’s see what Twitter has to say about that.
Reality (in the form of a text from her mother – because reality these days always arrives as a text from your mother) soon intrudes on virtual reality. Her mother writes “[s]omething has gone wrong . . . How soon can you get here?” Suddenly, our nameless expert on everything is jolted out of the portal. “She fell heavily out of the broad warm us, out of the story that had seemed, up till the very last minute, to require her perpetual co-writing.”
Indeed, something has gone dreadfully wrong. Her pregnant sister learns that her baby has a rare disease and will probably die in the womb – which also puts her sister’s life in danger. Against all odds, the baby and mother survive the birth, but everyday thereafter the baby’s survival is at risk. So what’s more real than the portal/internet? A baby with a congenital disease. And no one in the real or virtual world (is there a difference?) is talking about it.
The baby now has the nameless aunt’s whole (and holy) attention. “Through the membrane of a white hospital wall she could feel the thump of the life that went on without her, the hugeness of the arguments about whether you could say the word retard on a podcast. She laid her hand against the white wall and the heart beat, strong and striding, even healthy. But she was no longer in that body.” Eventually, the issue of whether the baby will survive is resolved. Then, gradually, the connected world calls our nameless friend back. But how connected is she to it now?
The internet says Patricia Lockwood is a poet, and the internet gets that one right. Her metaphors throughout are incisive and wondrous. Her style is a choppy stream-of-consciousness that would give James Joyce a happy little boner. The style suits an examination of social media’s impact on society. This is a poetic novella filled with humor and sadness. It is a smudge-free mirror reflecting what passes for real life these days.
Thank you for reading. Your attention is holy.
Alison Wonderland, Chief Editor and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans
The dangers are legion, but I will focus on the primary ones: self-delusion, self-loathing, and mockery.
Self-Delusion: I am not actually a poet. I simply think I am. But no one else does. Granted, this is far less dangerous (for everyone) than deluding myself into thinking I am an airline pilot when I don’t even have a driver’s license. However, a poet’s wardrobe is really expensive and typically ugly. I used to think tasteful clothes were expensive. Then I learned buying garish clothing that is three sizes too small is super expensive. And ascots . . . you should see the prices for gaudy ascots (as if there is any other kind). Unconscionable!
Luvgood Carp, Editor-in-Chief and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans
Is this a fist I see which approaches my face with steroid-assisted velocity? Or is this a fist of the mind, an immaculate conception, gestating in a beer-soaked brain? If real, that news report now rings true: we are indeed evolving into crabs because the fist is truly crustacean-like huge as a Caribbean conch shell with blue enameled calluses; spikey ridges serving as knuckles. Having now considered the fist close-up perhaps it was wrong of me to so freely and so loudly share my concerns about your too obvious and too intimate relations with your mother. After all, you are simply ensuring your odd traits will be inherited. So, good for you, Darwin's Prophet! Managing to crawl all by yourself through the septic foam fringing the shoreline and learning to adapt in a new environment. Your flat head and crooked legs proclaim that you are the pathfinder in evolution's wilderness. And well done, too, Darwin's Pharmacist! Opting for an unnatural selection of supplements to enhance bulk and brawn over brains. Your scrunched brow crusted with barnacles and those black pebbles passing as eyes affirm that in the future only mutants will be fit to survive. Luvgood Carp, Editor-in-Chief and Adjunct Professor of Student Loans
You may own all the hotels on Block Island, but I have a blog. And I just got a poem published in Edge of Humanity Magazine. You can find it here – https://edgeofhumanity.com/2021/07/28/a-tiny-voice/
Or you can find it below. Though I bet you won’t read it. And that’s o.k. with me, Dad. I won’t be staying in your hotels any time soon, because they’re really expensive.
A Tiny Voice
Yes, of course, we, too, care about a neglected rose struggling to survive among the scattered bricks of a crumbling house, but we've already done all we can. Remember a child has a tiny voice and no money - hardly the sturdy platform on which to make demands. Yet here she stands with her small voice, empty pockets, and accusing eyes, while we continue to tell her to trust the spider who swears he wouldn't hurt a fly. Luvgood Carp, Chief Editor and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans
I like how you describe that poem more than the poem itself. You see things I don't, and the things you see have deep meanings - deeper perhaps than the poet intended. You see birds symbolizing change. The young leave the old and neither knows the impact of the parting. Shockingly this lack of comprehension is of no consequence because there is love in the leaving. Even after reading the poem several times, I see crows. I am not sure you are right, but I know you are not wrong. You amaze me. I would like to see that poem as you see it. But whenever I see you and me in a mirror, I am reminded: you have poor eyesight and a temperament that is too tender. They are your most egregious shortcomings, and I have benefitted from both. Luvgood Carp, Editor-in-Chief and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans First published in The Oddville Press
We would like to sincerely thank Edge of Humanity Magazine for publishing our poem, Bishop’s Hole. A link to the poem is here. https://edgeofhumanity.com/2021/06/27/bishops-hole/
Or if you like, you can read it below.
Oh, the games we played in Bishop’s Hole, but the foul winds have begun to blow so once again it's time to go. Even though it's hard, I must leave this behind. That's what the rector said, and he does have a good head. Granted, this happens all the time. It's why we installed a pipeline, which can send me anywhere because Bishop's Holes are everywhere. But still it's hard and I'm leaving quite a mess, but reputations must be protected, so there's nothing here to confess. When I think about the good we inflict this only gives my conscience a tiny prick. We lie in the shadow of the Cross, so there isn't anything we can't lick.
* * *
O.K. That’s enough with the juvenile jabs. I've had my fun, and it's cruel to taunt. Let's get serious for a moment. We told you that we would fix things, and you had faith. Then you learned that we continued to rape your children and cover it up. You even found our pedophile pipeline.
That was awkward for us. So we promised to stop for real. And you believed us, but we lied. Again. No rational person should have believed us. But you did. You continued to give us your children, and we continued to prey. You trusted us - the black vultures you should have feared. And we never did a single thing to earn your trust. After all that, shouldn't you be the ones condemned? * * *
Have you noticed how we love gold veneer? It's everywhere, and it's immaculate as long as you don't stand too near. We've made the luster last all these years, because we polish the gold with your children's tears. Those tears run like torrents between the pews. It's like Noah's Flood. And there's nothing else we will do. Luvgood Carp, Editor-in-Chief and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans
Good God - I almost forgot the Honor Men! Those pillars of conformity with their orange blazers and Jeffersonian rectitude, afflicting us with their boozy breath and stale pretensions in the rotunda. And look how rotund they've grown to be! They're oranges teetering on toothpicks; oranges soaking in whiskey squirting bourbon when squeezed; oranges that should have been left to rot on the trees. Humor the Honor Men! For they upheld the Hypocritic Oath as long as their withered arms could. Humor them because their members have shriveled and their influence has petered out - leaving them petulant and confused because their time has come and gone. But what will happen to the country clubs? Who will boldly sail the shallow waters of our bays? Who will smoke cigars and waylay waitresses? Who will presume to know what everyone wants? Just as I think these thoughts, a vast image of the Tower of Babel troubles my sight. And hundreds of disparate parties espousing thousands of opposing beliefs swell on the lawn like some tumorous growth; each wearing orange and each vowing to uphold the Hypocritic Oath. Luvgood Carp, Editor-in-Chief and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans First published in Scarlet Leaf Review