ISBN-10:
1556595476
ISBN-13:
9781556595479
Pub. Date:
Publisher:
Dangerous Household Items

Dangerous Household Items

by David Orr

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Overview

“David Orr is an authentic iconoclast. His criticism is exuberant and original. Dr. Johnson, my critical hero, urged us to clear our mind of cant. Orr has cleared his. He will enhance the perception of his readers.” —Harold Bloom

“A poetry critic and poet himself, David Orr’s work often explores a gray area of literary professionalism and process. A columnist for the New York Times Book Review. . . . Orr shows himself to be a reader interested in cutting through noise, particularly with the realities of writing and publishing in a popular culture.” —Ploughshares

In his wry debut collection of poetry, celebrated critic David Orr ponders the dark underworld of the ordinary, as he traverses the suburban gothic landscape of modern America. Orr finds and names what’s at the core of being human: sorrow, kindness, familial love, and memory. The poems are playful, fashioned of fables, familiar objects, and the supernatural, inviting every reader to enter in.

From “The Abduction”:

. . . Later, he would wake each night screaming
In helpless confusion, but at the time
There was just the sun, the beach, the sun, the saltwater
And dark forms being kind.
Only a month
After the incident, having lost the skill
Of knowing what was real, he walked
Into headlights he had thought were his wife.

David Orr teaches at Cornell University in addition to serving as the poetry columnist for the New York Times Book Review. A native of South Carolina, he lives in Ithaca, New York.



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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781556595479
Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
Publication date: 10/23/2018
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 1,198,680
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

A graduate of Princeton University and Yale Law School, David Orr is Professor of the Practice at Cornell University as well as the poetry columnist for the New York Times Book Review. A native of South Carolina, he lives at present in Ithaca, New York.

Read an Excerpt

Tea



The cup lay deserted on the table.

The tea smoldered in the cup.

The tea smoldered and transformed the water

Into naked expressions of tea



And impassioned expressions of tea

And bitter expressions of tea.

The tea became displeasing to its maker

As it became increasingly itself.





A Brief History of Projectiles



The stone

could be easily

deflected,



but the arrow

could be deflected

only with



effort, and

the bullet

could not be turned



without armor,

while the missile yields

to nothing



except, in mid-air,

its counterpart.





Fable



On the boy’s fifth birthday, his father gave him a lion.

“This is not,” said the father, “a symbolic lion;

It’s a real lion, and will require real care.”

The boy could see that this must be true,

Because the lion already had pissed on the carpet.

So he undertook the burden of the beast

Reluctantly, knowing it wouldn’t be light.



Soon, however, the lion became part of his life.

In the woods beside the soccer fields

Where the boy mostly failed to score,

The lion paced or, more often, slept and quietly farted.

In school it was a dim, golden presence;

Sometimes close at hand (at lunch, for example);

Other times, unaccountably difficult to locate,

As when the boy was being pushed or made fun of.



The boy grew older; the lion remained the same.

Fresh from the triumph of collegiate sex,

The boy met the lion’s yellow gaze in the bathroom mirror.

“Don’t you have somewhere else to be?,” the boy asked.

To which the lion said nothing, being a lion.

As the boy grew into manhood, the years blurred

With wife and children and the hopeful sheen

Of household devices. The lion slept outside sometimes,

But could still be counted on to reemerge

At sunrise, its pelt lit softly by the warming sky,

To take a dump, or simply flop on the driveway.



Then the boy’s father became ill, as all of us must.

He was trundled about and filled with cisplatin

And drugs to relieve the side effects of cisplatin,

And drugs to relieve the side effects of those drugs,

But nothing was availing. On his last night,

The boy sat alone beside him, for it was his turn

To keep the vigil. There was no special sign

As death came on, but when the boy looked up,

He saw that the lion had crossed the threshold.



“It’s okay,” he told the lion. ‘I know what you have to do.”

And so the lion ate the body of the boy’s father.

It was not symbolic. The boy was surprised

By how much blood his father’s body still contained,

And disturbed, as he realized what a rude business

A lion’s dinner really was. Then it was over,

And night didn’t swallow the room, but it did get dark.



The boy waited, and the lion sat silently, tail twitching.

And suddenly, as if a great wave had passed over him,

The boy realized he was waiting

For nothing, that he had been waiting for nothing

For hours, that he had been waiting for nothing

For years, that he had always been waiting for nothing,

And that he was in a room with a lion.



He backed away slowly and slipped out the door,

Only to see his mother hurrying down the hall,

Having been alerted by the nurses,

And moving slightly behind her, entirely at ease,

The warm orange glow of a tiger.









Malison



I hope someone knocks you into next week,

So that you wake to find yourself adrift

In next Monday, having missed your own birthday.



And if, by knocking you into next week,

That same person manages to send you

Into next month, then good. No paycheck for you.



Likewise, should the knocking in question occur

As the year ends, and the holidays transpire

Without you – well, welcome to January.



But most of all, I hope that you’re struck

At the close of the decade’s last December,

So that you rise in the cold of a new paradigm,



And, walking streets now grown unfamiliar,

Are greeted by the children of the next era

Saying they remember you. And that you’ve aged.







The Abduction



For all that vanished week, he seemed to float

In bath-warm water by a harmless beach,

Never noticing the spinning instruments

That exposed his spine, nor the probes that ran

Along his lower vertebrae like mice.

Later, he would wake each night screaming

In helpless confusion, but at the time

There was just the sun, the beach, the sun, the saltwater

And dark forms being kind.

Only a month

After the incident, having lost the skill

Of knowing what was real, he walked

Into headlights he had thought were his wife.







The Feud



On Channel 2, we’ve got “Family Feud,”

A special episode – Hatfields and McCoys.

The prize is a pig, the buzzer a gunshot,

And everyone’s cheerful, even the men.



Forgotten by now are the hungry knives

That feasted on Ellison, pride of the Hatfields;

Forgotten as well the smoldering homestead

Where Adelaide mourned the dead Alifair,

And Sarah lay senseless, alas the McCoys;



Instead, the host is smooching a Hatfield;

The audience roars, the pig is oinking.

What harm could flow from these decent people

With their bashful grins and Sunday outfits,



And what good is memory? To summon

The thirsty ghost of murdered Alifair

To chide her kin for a blunted purpose,

A vengeance owing, a seven-fold debt,

Would only make us all embarrassed, as



BAM BAM BAM BAM – the buzzer

Explodes in the hand of a happy McCoy

(The Hatfields look mad, but they’ll get over it);

This category is “Things You Lose,”

And the Number One answer, he’s guessed it, is “Keys.”

Table of Contents

I

Renovation 5

Dangerous Household Items 7

Snares 8

Daniel 9

Inflatable Pool 10

Unexpected Meeting 12

Sea Nettle 13

Malison 14

The Chameleon 15

Tea 16

The Heroine 17

Quarters 19

Recycling 21

Kindness 25

Sorrow 26

Beach Reading 27

The Frog 29

Fable 30

Sandbox 32

The Source 33

Graphology 34

Homestretch 35

Backmasking 37

II

Fata Morgana 41

III

Appetites 47

Swamp Fox 48

The Train 49

The Abduction 50

Against Strange Maladies a Sovereign Cure 51

Water 53

The King 54

Invasive 55

The Big Bad 56

Cheney in Italy 57

South Tower 60

Found Poem 61

Victory 62

Time's Arrow 63

Cardenio 64

Edinburgh 65

Songbook 66

i "In a Big Country"

ii "Just Like Heaven"

lii "Don't You (Forget About Me)"

iv "The Song Remains the Same"

Folly 70

Winter 73

Acknowledgments 77

About the Author 79

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