Donald Barthelme vs. Russell Edson In Outer Space

At the space station, time stretched out like taffy.
We made up slogans
out of our asses
for absurd commodities which, if they exist, shouldn't.

We voted (ourselves)
into made-up offices.
We issued edicts to each other,
and had drunken fights over borders we dreamed, or misremembered
from wasted schoolroom afternoons.

Abruptly, we were summoned home,
though the trip took months, and we strangled or ravished each other
at intervals all the way, regardless of
gender or
consequences or
any pretense of sanity or cohesion.

Arriving from the Space Station, we were feted as heroes.
We had intimacies with heads of state,
and endorsed, on camera, preposterous shit with unknown risks and
dubious utility.

Wish upon a star, said our mothers
so many years ago,
as we lay in cribs like soft, wonderful jail cells for the innocent.
Wish upon a star, 
and we did, God help us, we did.

I discovered two of my strongest (and most bizarre) influences in my teens (Donald Barthelme) and early 20s (Russell Edson). Barthelme is the author of several collections of short stories which describe dryly absurd situations rife with irony and failure. The first one I found was a paperback copy of "Unspeakable Practices, Unnatural Acts" (find quotes from which, HERE). I owe a significant debt to Mr. Barthelme for the indelible mark his style has left on my sensibilities. Then there is Russell Edson, whose book of prose poems "The Wounded Breakfast" showed me that poetry, and story line, and creativity, and just about anything else on a page, could be however my mind could imagine it. Find "Angels" by Mr. Edson, HERE.

For Karin's "Under The Influence" mini-challenge at Real Toads. The artwork at top is hers.


Magaly Guerrero said…
The last sentence of the first stanza made me smile. It reminded me to long nights on duty with other Marines who were just as tired as I was.

Love the descriptions.
Outlawyer said…
Hey Shay--I love your influences, whom I don't know so well as you, but at least have read a little and always found fascinating. (Will go back to them.) And your own take is really compelling--the voice is yours and wonderful and the sense of both bitterness and absurdity but always this humor and humanness is also so much yours. Thanks much for participating. k.
Sherry Blue Sky said…
YOU are the one who knocked down all boundaries and showed me how far a poem could go beyond anything I had previously read. You and that dead squirrel thrown through the pickup window. You blew my doors off. I, of course, adore this poem for all of these reasons. I expect if humans ever do leave earth and try to inhabit another planet, we will screw it up as royally as we have this one.
Kerry O'Connor said…
You know how much I adore this narrative. Outer Space.... Whoosh!!
Sioux Roslawski said…
Shay--You can do anything--a space poem included. The last stanza is my favorite and the last line--brilliant.
Anonymous said…
In space or on Earth human nature remains. I adore the last lines. And thanks for introducing me to you influencers.
brudberg said…
Space and science fiction is a wonderful source for poetry... so many things that can be said much better in sci-fi... If you can get hold of translation I would recommend Aniara by Harry Martinsson... one of my favorite narrative poetry books...
kaykuala said…
No holds barred Shay! A brave offering that strikes hard at creativity. Enjoyed it a lot!

Maude Lynn said…
This is a stellar (yep, I went there) example of you doing what only you can do.
Stacy said…
i love the free-falling hippie-chick feel to this.
and especially time stretching like taffy...yes, and so sticky the memory falls all over everything, even when it fades!
Carol Steel said…
This is a wonderful example of your work, work that could come from only you. The line "preposterous shit with unknown risks and dubious utility" is perfect ... says so much. Thanks for sharing your inspirations. You are one of mine.
Barthelme was seminal for me as well; though I'm not familiar with your other influence, anyone who can title a piece as he did is genius material, and very reminiscent of how you often integrate seamlessly, as here, concepts which should be total incongruities. I especially like the lines beginning '..we strangled or ravished each other/at intervals all the way, regardless...' This poem has such dark maturity that it is difficult to read without laughing or crying, or both simultaneously, as you create archetypal situations out of fantastic juxtapositions and phantasmal currents of strong mood and emotion. The last stanza just wipes me out.
Cloudia said…
" preposterous shit with unknown risks and
dubious utility.

Wish upon a star, said our mothers
so many years ago,
as we lay in cribs like soft, wonderful jail cells for the innocent."

Love those lines especially. Blame shifting, Shay? You are fully responsible for this.....treasure (of non-dubious utility)
C.C. said…
"time stretched out like taffy"----what a delicious line :-) I devoured it again and again. And I love that ending!
Margaret said…
You blend fiction and non-fiction together so well... the personal and the made up almost indistinguishable where fantasy and reality seemingly hold hands...
Susie Clevenger said…
I agree with Sherry..Reading your work has definitely shown me poetry doesn't can't be contained in between dotted lines. Your piece shows what horrible asses mankind has become. We dreamed but forgot wishes come with a price if we take the humanity out of them.
Gillena Cox said…
Your 2 endlines just blew me away. I think of astronauts and wonder did they evey as children think about being out there in space.

Haven't as yet linked to your references going there now

Much love
Crazy fun, crazy lady - now I'll have to read these guys. Thought of you the other day: listening to Marc Maron's WTF podcast and Todd Rundgren was on talking about how Laura Nyro's music blew his mind. I know that feeling. la la mosk
Pat Wahler said…
I really love this evocative line---
as we lay in cribs like soft, wonderful jail cells for the innocent


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