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Journal, Day One

By Richard Siken

The Taxonomy of the Dealio

I stubbed my toe on a hamburger because I am a liar and you want to be entertained. I say because and you wonder if I’m talking cause and effect, as if being a liar makes me prone to stubbing my toe, but that’s not what I mean. I mean I wrote on a hamburger because I am a liar. I do this a lot, and Stacey doesn’t like it. I did stub my toe, but on a different noun, a boring noun: chair. I stubbed my toe on the chrome leg of a poorly upholstered chair. The seat is upholstered, brown and poorly, and the chrome legs just stick out of the bottom until they hit the floor. Four legs, wooden floor. I stubbed my toe because I am a drunk. Right foot, the little piggy that gets no roast beef. I have been working on this paragraph for two hours.

Stacey is a female and she is tired of me lying to her and everyone else. When she calls, I say I am writing a poem about a chair, which is two lies, because this isn’t a poem and it isn’t about a chair, it’s about a hamburger. She, because she knows me, says “Are you lying to me?” and I say “Yes, I am lying to you. I am watching television, but later I am going to write a thing about a thing for that website thing that I said I would do.” And she hangs up. I keep promising that I will stop lying to her but I can’t help it, my life is boring and it bores me to talk about it. I’m not even a drunk. I just said that for effect.

Hamburger, because if you can put it in your mouth, it’s interesting. And some things are simply more fun to say. Waffles taste better but pancakes says better. Say it with me: pancakes. When the New Jerusalem descends from the sky and we all get to live in the City of God forever world without end I would like to have a little house on Pancakes Road. Now that is a good sentence. Sure, most words are better in the singular—plurals make a cheap music, all those esses rhyming with each other—but pancake is a dead word; too short, too severe. Somehow that last letter makes all the difference.

One time I was driving through the Broadway underpass—speed limit 15—and a car zoomed past me—doing at least 28—which made me mad because (notice the suspicious word) when I am law-abiding I am also self-righteous, and I glared at the driver, who was wearing a very nice blouse, and I thought What a fancy lady! and the lady waved at me and it was Stacey. So, of course, later, Stacey calls and asks what I was doing driving through the Broadway underpass. For those of you who do not live in Tucson, you need to know that there are only a few ways to drive out of downtown, as it is ringed by railroad tracks. Broadway goes East. Fourth, Sixth, and Stone go North. So, basically, what Stacey was saying was: I saw you driving East. Explain yourself. Or, seen another way: I saw you. Tell me a story about it. Yes, I saw you, too. You were wearing a very nice top, blue and green swirls, and you were speeding. I was going to Target to get three AA batteries for a fancy pencil sharpener that Chris bought for me. I had to buy four batteries. Now I have one left over. It was almost impossibly boring to live through. How can you expect me to spend any time putting language around it?

I am a liar because life is short and the days are long. I am a liar because the world is full of nouns and some of them do not bear repeating. In my head now is the image of a brown bear walking East on Pancakes Road saying noun, noun, noun . . . as he waves to me and Stacey, now holding hands because she is done being mad at me for being a liar. I would rather tell her about the bear. She thinks if I don’t tell her about the batteries I am hiding something.

There is another reason I am a liar. I hesitate to mention it. (The writer pauses for effect.) I am a liar because the world is full of nouns and sometimes I get confused, even when I am not drunk, which is most of the time. Sometimes I forget the word and people are looking at me, waiting for it. I have been known to say Restaurant Nurse instead of Waitress. I am not being funny, I’m just slow sometimes. I aim to get close to the meaning. I don’t expect precision, not in real life. I say sometimes because I don’t remember the exact times and places. I say because as if the world makes sense. Conversation is so fast. Who has the time to parse it all out while everything is in motion? It took me ten years to write sixty pages of poetry. If you want to know about my day, you should probably lower your expectations.

Posted in Uncategorized on Monday, May 1st, 2006 by Richard Siken.