Embarrassment

By Brenda Shaughnessy b. 1970 Brenda Shaughnessy
It’s a wave, isn’t it? Not a particle.
A fresh, cool wave, so why am I flushed
and not washed? Why dirtier than before?
 
 
1. Eymology
 
On the subject of our names.
They’re so embracing,
thinking they’re all us
 
and swallowing themselves
into our nausea.
 
Yet we never quite die on the spot.
We put off being what we’re called,
we take the hint.
 
Time is never wasted.
It is always spent.
 
 
2. Teleology
 
Sheer fabric trailing through 4 a.m.
I thought it was opaque and earlier.
 
 
3. Mathematics
 
I know you know I know.
And the mirror multiplies inside.
 
The world is no bigger, but next time
do the math,
 
because I wanted to know none
of what I now know twice.
 
 
4. The Principle of the Borg
 
Saying “There’s no one like me”
accomplishes the exact opposite
of what you mean.
 
It is true only insofar as it is true
for everyone equally.
 
So it means you are not special
in any way. Which should be enough for you.
 
 
5. Documentary
 
This clothing, a maladaptive wrapping,
cuts me up. I am a vignette,
 
floated knowingly
since I pulled myself through myself,
 
like a unitard. Too many eyeholes
 
have been cut and pieced together
to make flesh less various with others.
 
 
6. Medicine
 
The cure for embarrassment
is substitution.
 
Strap, don’t pluck.
Baldness makes headlines.
 
Use grass. Use less.
Shorts under your skirt for recess.
 
Redo the surfaces of your wrong turns to make
taking them smoother in the future.
 
 
7. Cosmology
 
Things are less embarrassing
at the cellular level. Remember?
 
We were a whole part of the universe
before Mother busted the party.
 
Before we were ourselves.
Now, like dirty soap, we
 
attract what we repel.
 
 
8. Apology
 
Even the clumsiest fate is perfectly shaped,
so the view took over looking
 
but the sweetest thing I’ve ever known
is obscene with a beautiful
 
sugar rotted down to its truth.
 
Loving you a serious accidental shame
and day flatulates into night,
 
trips and falls in front of millions
into morning.
 
In thrall to this pocus:
the end of fear starts
 
with such an annihilating blush,
with such a stutter.

Brenda Shaughnessy, "Embarrassment" from Human Dark with Sugar. Copyright © 2008 by Brenda Shaughnessy.  Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press. www.coppercanyonpress.org

Source: Human Dark with Sugar (Copper Canyon Press, 2008)

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Poet Brenda Shaughnessy b. 1970

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Humor & Satire, Love, Relationships, Sciences, Realistic & Complicated

 Brenda  Shaughnessy

Biography

Brenda Shaughnessy earned a BA from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an MFA from Columbia University. She is the author of Interior with Sudden Joy (1999), Human Dark with Sugar (2008), winner of the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, and Our Andromeda (2012). Her work has appeared in the Yale Review, the Boston Review, McSweeney’s, and Best American Poetry, among other places. With C.J. Evans, . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Humor & Satire, Love, Relationships, Sciences, Realistic & Complicated

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

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