211.1: Marc McKee:: Fan Mail & Fan Mail 2: Nanny Time Approacheth & Abridg’d Epic & Voice-Over & & Now 211

In this series of poems, Marc McKee investigates the surface of the poem, the surfaces that we create through our performance of our selves, and that which lies beneath these surfaces. No, that's not quite right. In each of these poems, McKee offers a surface that dissolves as we read the poem to reveal that which lies beneath the surface. The performative of the self, the persona, or the genre becomes a microscope through which the cells of an authentic reality can nearly be discerned. Or, at least we can imagine that within these cells, there are atoms of authentic reality. Or within those atoms, protons; within those protons, quarks; maybe within those quarks we will see it, once we look close enough. Through the surfaces of fan mail, an abridged epic, a voice-over, and a break-dance performance, we get these glimpses of the real that we are sure that we see and experience, even if it's hard to nail down exactly where and what it is. Every surface might be a crafted, false facade placed before a viewer for aesthetic effect. But McKee shows us that in that craft, we can discern even more astutely what it means to try and live in this world:

       ...Something
       is going to happen. I begin a dance
       a series of movements it is like
       I am laughing. I am reading.
       There is breaking. This is not nothing.
       And now you are happy.
       This is not nothing.
   Andrew Wessels

Fan Mail


Those hair extensions look so real, everything
looks so real about you like so real
the logical explanation can only be

you got a time machine and went backwards,
to the sepia days when your hair was longer
and cut your hair from the past

to make extensions with and now it’s so
real-looking it’s like not having hair extensions
at all, oh my god. And effects so real are like

real, like almost totally real, right, so my question is
in two parts: a) where do I get a time machine
and b) do you really set fire to your co-stars

or representative portraits of your co-stars
without warning? Like, they come to set one day,
maybe an early morning call, maybe a midnight

shoot and then it’s like INT: fade in on [you,
or something that looks a lot like you] totally on fire
all of a sudden
. We need to know these things, it’s vital

we know what we’d otherwise just suspect
like it’s important to be able to kill everybody
and their families and cripple any potential future

families a million times over, right,
like that’s what makes a country—but I digress.
Remember the hippopotamus who was your friend

and made all those unpleasant yet humorous
quips? Write me back, write me
in your own blood.  c) don’t I own you, and c)

do I not own you?  c) will you lie down
with me? What do we have to know? What
do we have? This nuclear winter

will be our nuclear winter. You can trust me,
I’m always the one saying you’re not a snake
unless you are playing a snake which is when

I let everyone know how great a snake you are/were
like the realest, greatest snake, oh my god.
O, can’t someone just press the button

already? I knew a woman who stripped
the cotton from my eyes, the light
like a deep breath drawn in the Arctic.

I knew a woman, I had a life, it’s true
then it changed once I realized you were
embellishing it. Like I was imagining you taking

an arctic breath and I couldn’t see myself
taking an arctic breath and now what’s real
is less. The gauze crimsoned, the horizon

nearing, is it like this for you? I was the only one
who got how genius it was for you
to add ventriloquism to the rogue police detective

who is secretly the moral center of the pre-apocalyptic
world that writhes and feeds as though the apocalypse
has come and gone without saying goodbye

and I’m like “Is this even a movie?”
The thrown voice underlines the lack
of individual agency and plus it was weird

but in a cool way. I like lettuce do you like lettuce
why don’t you like lettuce like I like lettuce?
I’ll sleep at the foot of your bed

but I can’t promise I’ll sleep.
Do you really know what it’s like to be
a private detective/ice cream magnate/father,

or are you pretending? I thought we could go
on a ride. You could pretend it into a balloon ride.
I can pretend us into the celestial metropolis

you thought was just a trick of the light
once light was combined with the gratis cocktail
waiting in your trailer. I thought maybe

I could be the gratis cocktail waiting
in your trailer, I thought maybe I could
lope through your green screens, my eyes

like tongues like fingers watching you,
like the lord and like the lord I will always want
in, to step out of the backdrop, to step out

from the dust and the light fiddling the dust
into little suggestions—d) I need a wink a lightning
rod a prayer stage-whispered, ticking beneath

the catchphrase, beneath the tweaked defiance
a split second before you open a portal
or find the missing dog or turn over the impossible

poker hand which means everything will be
after all alright. I never turn over
the impossible poker hand. I alone prowled

the message boards with a deep sense of how real
it was for you to be garbed in Victorian regalia
on the trail of a monocled demon

who fed exclusively on the hearts of desiccated animals
and blonde college freshmen. Now I need you
to do the same for me.






Fan Mail 2: Nanny Time Approacheth


After the nuclear war, the only people left
will be ex-celebrities and out-of-work nannies

I expect, and my intuitive calculations
concerning nannies are never wrong, totally—

mildly errant would be a better way to describe
my intuitive calculations concerning nannies,

a gift I discovered after your turn as a nanny
who brokers a cessation of hostilities

in the Middle East—a farce with no superheroes
in it, in this day and age, oh my god—via

much toughness and falling down
and exaggerated accents and a fat, gold,

democratic heart. Or brain. It must be said,
I am less accurate when it comes to

ex-celebrities. Sometimes at work I find
I am drawing a picture of your heart

only it looks like a fat brain, it’s gold
but it’s damned democratic and then

I am inventing new colors for it, gold
is not enough, oh my god. The Times found you

cloying, I find the Times a cinderblock
covered in moldy oatmeal and anyway

those of us who understand
the secret hardiness of true nannies

know better. Now: who writes your red carpet?
What will you say after the nuclear war?

When it happens I think everyone
should pretend it never happened—red carpet

will chase the horizon, and we will need
to say many meaningless things.

Sometimes you seem sweaty
and completely dry at the same time

and I feel that this will come in handy
as we begin to rebuild. You might say

that nuclear winter is where nannies
separate the wheat from the chaff, the nannies

from the baby-sitters. Life will grow
more competitive: fewer children, greater

tasks, the gathering of groceries
suddenly Herculean and violin lessons

an exercise in nerve-harsh
that would dismantle utterly

the most frozen-veined black operative.
You know, like the one you played

in your first comeback, the one
whose dismantlement by a random children’s

violin recital first made me feel
like all the missiles could launch

and still something would be, in the end
or after, okay. Or that we could act like it was

so convincingly, it almost
would be.






Abridg’d Epic


First the thing but before that thing
another, much-maligned thing
which caused the in medias res thing
to come into being which, in the irony
that powers the cartwheeled mise-en-scene
that is the angularly ballooning universe,
it would be the fate of said middle thing
to reverse then reverse again—Still with us?
There was blood, lots of it. The monsters
got smaller, but the damage
got bigger, ships were built for so long
some of them went into the sky.
Oceans were crossed, some had stars in them,
we all had stars in us, mirrors were
fought, somewhere in there
kindergarten. Next, the thing—traumatic
or no, it was quite a thing and it altered the river
if you get my meaning. The architecture
of nests advanced as the debris proliferated
as if all the thing-doers were geniuses
primarily of the undoing of things.
If the hazmat suit fits, &c.
There was a boy, there was a girl, there was
an entity who wished not to be identified
save as visible solely at an angle
through the cracks and fissure that appeared
in the tapestries depicting things big and little
connected connected connected like the yarn
that makes up all balls of yarn.
No leering, thank you.
You humans with your names and tags.
There was a boy, there was an entity,
there was a girl
isn’t there always? Entity the Sky Thing,
entity the Tribe, entity the State, the Self,
the Plot, not necessarily in that order
but not not. Stuff was delicious
before the air got hammered into shape
rattling through the mouth cut into
the sound delicious. And here we are, declaring
stuff delicious: fate! I would be remiss
to leave out the helicopters, that Helen,
that other Helen, that Helen that was
the systemic oppression of a variety
of exploited underclasses, that monster
and that monster’s mother, that search
for parentage, we went through a land
and it was so hot, it was so cold,
it wasn’t even a land we went through.
We went generally in search of specifics
and there they were, everywhere, a downy wing
floating to the floor of the hot attic,
a jump rope coiled beside a drain in the showers
of the penitentiary, a bowling ball in a flowerbed,
some awesome ghastly music not unexpected
except in the form in which it arrived
i.e. totally unexpected. Before a hot mic,
yes, an accident not at all an accident
and so many custodial dead because of.
The dead, always the dead with their tables
of multiplication. Both non-epic things
and things other-than took forever.
It was centuries before we could tell you
with any accuracy what a countess was.
History adolesced and kept adolescing
until we could never be sure. Now
someone else does our slaughtering for us
unless we are the ones doing the slaughtering
in which case we are doing it for someones
else. The point was to get home
when what was once home is no longer
yours to return to—just watch
how we give chase, the lunacy of the heart
like a horse in an interminable desert
who catches the scent of water, the point
is so sharp. Everyone got everywhere and still
no one seemed to get anywhere, to arrive
was to begin figuring out that some thing
wasn’t quite right and sometimes you were
that something. To sum up: we were there
and we kept licking our hope like it was water
in this desert, so much water we must need
to build a boat. To sum up: we were there
and now we’re here. To sum up: The sun
came up, as it often does. Our shadow grew
then disappeared. Yet, somehow, there were
moments of total urgency. We rose to them
like figurative language, we helped
as though we weren’t all alone.






Voice-Over


She walked across the room like a swan
on an oil-slicked river licking through
a scorched city, she crossed the room walking

bi-pedal, like a human, toward the desk /
the wardrobe / the abyss like she’d heard a lot
said of her, over her, a thousand times

too many. She talked like smoke
purring into a ravine where you
had just gone missing. You try being a femme

fatale
in a world full of chewing gum
commercials. Shadows chiaroscuro, so many
rules, you try being a femme vitale

in a world she walked and talked her story
into the story I would be the last to tell.
There was some interference. She walked like,

talked like and like. She asked for help like she was
in a movie. The movie should have asked
for help. It was clear I was some

interference. Clear as that kite
in your memory of almost swooning
to death off a cliff overlooking the Pacific,

the Pacific like a beckon of glass muscle
which is to say fronting clarity while all the while
something clear not at all. Not my scene

but I walked on anyway: I stopped caring
whose marks I hit. It was like being in the movie
playing on the television in the background

of the antepenultimate scene of a movie
you think I remember explaining to you. She said
I had a gift for analogies but analogies

were a poor substitute for a disjunctive
syllogism. Something something murder, blah blah
blackmail, something else stocking agleam

as wet, white paint on the palest clematis
ruckused by a ribboned lattice of cigarette smoke
breezing through. You could see it plain

as the soon-to-be-broken nose on any passing face:
she walked not yet talking west
across the model of manifest destiny

that was the bargain carpeting, talking by walking
she walked into talking before she even opened
her mouth. She talked like debris

in a champagne flute before she smoothed
her hand from her glove then smoothed her glove
from her hand. Any beginning explodes,

every introduction springs violently
in all directions like a horse with a thorn
in its lion, like an echo talking back,

a preliminary understanding of how the world
feeds on us, walking, she says Hello, Hello she says
like someone stepping out of an airplane cargo bay

in a dinner dress like cold black coffee poured over
the ballerina segunda. This scene is really all
that talking, we might as walking

be talk between two different fingers
on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I’ll allow my talk
was walk, my ear bent, tongue detective

and crooked, I mean she really said Hello, things
were livened up considerable, as I saw them, her
hell. She balked at the office of my office,

I made all the talk of her Hello a plank
walk, stalk of echo, the long goodbye
of any star, any startle, any start—






& Now


Look at me, I am break-dancing. Next
to a tornado. While doing a stand-up
comedy routine which is made
of my impression of Pauly Shore
doing a stand-up comedy routine.
In front of a mirror. You don’t have to
imagine his sadness when the last light bulb
above the mirror gives a snap
and goes dark-you can see it on my face
and this is called teaching composition.
You don’t have to remember who he is
to follow my directions.
Somewhere and it is possible
even within walking distance
there is a house. Upstairs
the window is open and that it is
has been forgotten. Look,
there is a fire, you see yourself
in it, you think of how acquiescent
paper is. Look at me, I am Pauly
Shore break-dancing until I can’t stand
up. If it were possible to close a book
that were already closed, if it were possible
to double-unread something, that would be
the look looking at me of a Wednesday.
The window wants to close itself
and the animal that is the being open
is nervous. I worry, too, I too worry
and worry. I am holding a watch
in my hand, the watch I am holding
no longer works. Something
is going to happen. I begin a dance
a series of movements it is like
I am laughing. I am reading.
There is breaking. This is not nothing.
And now you are happy.
This is not nothing.