MN Poetry: Alex Lemon’s “Souvenirs from the Unraveling”

Alex Lemon is the author of Happy: A Memoir (Scribner), the poetry collections Mosquito (Tin House Books), Hallelujah Blackout (Milkweed Editions), Fancy Beasts (Milkweed Editions), and the chapbook At Last Unfolding Congo (horse less press). He was awarded a 2005 Literature Fellowship in Poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts and a 2006 Minnesota Arts Board Grant. He co-edits LUNA: A Journal of Poetry and Translation with Ray Gonzalez and frequently writes book reviews. He now lives in Fort Worth, Texas and teaches at Texas Christian University.

Souvenirs from the Unraveling

for D.H.

The owner’s manual mother gave me

Taught me everything I needed to know

Up to this point, so I didn’t realize

It was too late until they phoned

About organ donation. Then came the dull

Ache of heartburn. Then the parade of mice.

I tried to rid myself of the infestation

By walking miles with a sandwich board.

I wished everyone a terrific stay.

Cars passed, horns honked wildly.

Many folks gave me the finger.

One woman pulled down her top.

But I am a waver, and I smiled, gave

Her the thumbs up. I sat next to a brick wall

Painted with wet graffiti. Kiss, it said

In big orange letters. I thought, this is cool,

But the letters were so fat and squished together,

It might have said kill. This was very sad,

So I stared into the sun to erase the memory.

This is what they do in movies and really good books.

Actually, the stride was the sort of flapping

Dance heated ribosomes do under microscopes.

I remembered this from Sunday school

Or an infomercial about knives.

Needless to say, the day was furious

With flashbacks. The concrete grew condensation,

I stepped in never-ending piles of gum.

My favorites were purple and tasted like grape

Or the Van Gogh I licked repeatedly as a child.

Nightfall and I was at the shore with a number

Of half-scratched lotto tickets and a very old

Burrito. This is my sort of magic, I reflected,

Squawking melodies from my kazoo.

But it was time to say hello again to the many things

I had said good-bye to. I blew a tornado

Of kisses to friends-sand crabs,

The gutter worms. I wished the others -

All the floating diapers and Depends,

The sweetest of dreams. I spoke my prayers

to the yummy and listened to the pounding waves

Jibber-jabber that even after today,

There was all of endless tomorrow to go.

- “Souvenirs from the Unraveling” in Hallelujah Blackout by Alex Lemon (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2008). Copyright © 2008 by Alex Lemon. Reprinted with permission from Milkweed Editions.

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