Cultural Sitcom; Or, Poet Laureate Guest-Stars on The Simpsons
“Youth, to be with you
is to drive the interstate without a windshield”
Your favorite episode is the one
when Bart cheats on his placement test
& Lisa’s notched locks want to pierce his stomach
like prehistoric teeth. Homer was kinder then,
a clip-on tie sloped over the yellow dune
of his belly, his accent trailing a dim score of hope.
At 4:30, you delayed baseball games
for the dubbed voices of Los Simpson
on Tele-Once, channel eleven. Your friends
crammed into elevators, spikes dripping dirt
from the lot. You ran down the hallway—
past Don Mario, who paced back & forth,
the hue of age ringed around his eyes—
all for the music of the opening credits,
the assorted skits of Los Simpson on the couch.
After the show, it was back to the waterfront lot
& the gentle give of sand on perfect slides—
past Don Mario again, the Navy binoculars
hung from his neck.
Youth was about this:
everyone cramming into an elevator
without seeing the bleak forecast of it,
the tired metaphor of it. At ten,
your only poetry was the stressed syllable
croaked by a broken bat, the spondaic feet
of Don Mario’s rubber sandals kissing the tiles
all night long: the shriek of a thousand mongooses
giving birth to a thousand mongooses,
each a second apart. Youth was
however long it took to learn
nobody loans without borrowing something
in return. For you, Homer was Homero
& Santa’s Little Helper was Huesos,
& somewhere, kids deterred
by the bent acoustics of your tongue
referred to Samuel Sosa as Sammy,
to Roberto Alomar as Robbie. You know
there is the youth that absorbs
& the youth that absorbs & assimilates.
There is the youth that has fists
like soft matzoh balls, & the youth
that has fists like two little saunas—
& all you wanted
was a baseball to mill into a powder
you could sprinkle over your head
& never grow old, as your friends began to move away,
as they traded their mitts & Los Simpson
for different scenes & vices to-be-named-later.
Then, Homer stopped wearing a tie to the plant,
Marge gave up oil portraits for a breeze of eye shadow
that matched her mound of hair
& gambled away Lisa’s college fund.
Bart became US Ambassador of Culture,
a slingshot jutting out of his pocket
like a wishbone—
& how you wish
you could return to that lot, its foul poles
two bent palm trees, or even return to that elevator,
the one you rode from basement to penthouse,
over & over, with the girl from 502
who broke into the switchboard & turned off the lights.
How you flicked each other’s switches & never tired
because pleasure, at that age, was a straight line
suspended a notch above the other straight line
of what you knew was not wrong.
every day running past a man
who walked so close to death
he must have already missed himself: Don Mario—
& how sometimes he stopped at the end of the hallway
& brought those binoculars to his face,
searching for the flammable wake of a spaceship,
listening for the faint hum of a turbine—
this is what you’re thinking
on a Sunday many years removed,
after watching Robert Pinsky on The Simpsons,
yellow & reading “Impossible to Tell.”
Youth, you were a virgin
when you walked into the party
& then the mirrors raped you.
Youth, you disappear the darkness
& make the night skinny dip into the sun.
Youth, college is a precipice you pushed
me into, where you dropped
books full of poems on my head
like anvils, where everything stopped
making sense. I could have majored in cartoons
& been the next Wile E. Coyote. I could
have been a stripper at Macho Rancho.
I could have played in the Bigs
& had my name tampered with.
It’s amazing: how far we’ve come.
My mitt is boxed in a moist closet.
As a right fielder, I would go
by Gonzo. As a stripper, I would dress
as Poet Laureate. I would read sonnets
& shake it on every rhyme. Youth,
you’re the dollar bill pinned on the thong
of memory. Youth, you’re what we look for
when we point binoculars at an empty sky,
but we only see time’s veins wilting
in the moonlight. Youth, you have to grow knuckles
before you can close them fists. Youth,
just look at the mess you’ve made.
My beachfront lot is now a Walgreens. O Youth,
your breath reeks. Brush your teeth.
Kevin A. González