Poem of the Week | June 01, 2015

This week we feature a new poem by Weston Cutter. Cutter is from Minnesota, teaches at the University of St Francis in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and is the author of You’d Be a Stranger, Too and All Black Everything.

Author’s note:

I remember writing this poem, and enjoying how weird it was, but can’t recall *why* I went with it. I can look back and see that the poem began about a month into my wife’s second pregnancy, so that may’ve had something to do with it, but I’m fairly sure that’s just a rationalization. I know the very very start–the literal first few lines–came from exhaustion (I’m sure I felt like I was repeating myself), and from me remembering the start of Hicok’s “Bars Poetica,” which is a poem I’ve always liked for its blunt start, though now, going back and finding it online, I see I’ve misremembered even that.


One Act


Forgets his lines. Man in lights and bright
white tunic and too-tight cod-piece
forgets his lines. Looks at the black
of stage floor, back to the bricks in dark
behind him, writes My name is I’m sorry on
his arm with a Sharpie then walks
to stage’s edge, pulls off his arm, hands
it down, there’s surprisingly little blood, gestures
for the audience to pass it around.
Lady takes his arm and all she’d wanted
was respite, a performance, some space
away from the day’s nada traffic +luke
warm coffee and now this. This artiste
passing his artsy dismembered arm around
as if she’d never been loved and forgotten. I’m
sorry too she scribbles on the back of his hand
in blue pen, hard, passes the limb to
the old man two seats down who can’t remember
when last he said her name, Leslie, or why
he’s picturing her suddenly, now, they’d melted
into each other’s ripe newness in a cornfield, summer
of ’56, an entire discovering season before she
was hush-hushed off to a home for the wayward
knocked-up, her family midwesternly tightlipped, she’d written
some postcards, he looks so much like you
in certain light. He’d never seen her again and
the past such a crapshoot. Theatergoers
now watching the old man holding this arm
to his face snuffling my son, my son, it goes on
like this, everything does. Eventually he whimpers
I didn’t even know his name as he hands the arm
to the couple beside him, like most they don’t
quite know why they’re here, what they’re hoping
for, the gray of the vague good enough usually holds up
but now? Guy’s gripping this arm out to his love like
well? like this is why we thought we should come? and
she looks at him, eyes full of shrugs, neither
speaking. Man on stage. This anywhere theater.
Audience waiting for what. Some un
folding. Call it whatever. Man on stage, left arm
absent, right arm intact, watching the small
audience pass a piece of him like a joint
at a going-nowhere party. The conch of
the body. The sacred remnant. The show
+tell of flesh. Lady looking at the arm
her man’s holding while he’s looking at her, wondering how
the thing he’s supposed to write or say will
come clear, he’s thinking I want you, how
he’d said it in a Wendy’s drivethrough, her
in the passenger seat, how she’d asked but what’d you really want
when he’d said he’d just get a small
spicy chicken sandwich, how he hadn’t even been thinking
as he ceased standing between the puddle
he was and the river he wanted to be. Now
is always the thing to suffer through. Now
the guy on stage’s shoulder registers an ache. Now
the woman takes the arm from her man, writes
nobody knows what to say, stands, passes
the guy’s arm back like she’s handing over
a bouquet on a show’s debut, now
the audience stirs, it takes ten seconds, fifteen, but soon
everyone’s clapping without knowing why. Now
guy on stage, still lit but feeling stranger now,
stands there holding his arm and thinks these must
have been the lines the whole time as swells of Bravo!
Bravo! fill the air like a revelation of birds flowing
graceful and precise, tree to tree, offering
no hint re why they keep moving, what they think
they’re throwing themselves over+over toward.