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What to Read This Summer

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Terrible are the rose names ...    
Stakeholders in a tradition of
“Grande Amore” and “True Love”
(one carmine, the other blush ... ), their aims

are, for the most part, scattershot.
“Mothersday” and “Playboy,”
“Senior Prom” and “Let’s Enjoy”
vie with a lyrical “Lady of Shalott,”

while a flyweight “Pink Knockout”
comes “Outta the Blue” to mock
“Honey Perfume,” “Pillow Talk”
— jock Cupid wielding clout.

Then maybe a puckish curator
pairs “Las Vegas” with “Nearly Wild,”
“Buttercream” with “Julia Child,”
“Aloha” with “Hello, Neighbor ... ”
 

Misenus, son of Aeolus, god of the wind,
don’t you think it’s bad form
to practice trumpet on this platform,

what with the dentistry squeal
at construction site decibel levels
of braking blade shaving molar steel,

dropped-in blare of delays and arrivals
squelched against granite, at close intervals,
while you riff on “Over the Rainbow” — ?

You received some negative attention
from Triton, after blowing his conch so loud
you inadvertently entered yourself

in an unwinnable contest; now,
stuck in a twenty-first-century translation
of hell, you press the stops, and for an obol

prepare our burial in an infinite axial scroll
with a tinier and tinier turning radius,
as if we were those hordes, the unsanctified,

who shoved one another along the Cocytus,
none led on to the golden bough
by Venus’s semaphore, the unloved rock doves,

whom Virgil treats so gently in the Aeneid.
Source: Poetry (April 2017)

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This poem originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of Poetry magazine

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What to Read This Summer

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