Larkinesque, by Michael Ryan

Reading in the paper a summary
of a five-year psychological study
that shows those perceived as most beautiful
are treated differently,

I think they could have just asked me,
remembering a kind of pudgy kid
and late puberty, the bloody noses
and wisecracks because I wore glasses,

though we all know by now how awful it is
for the busty starlet no one takes seriously,
the loveliest women I’ve lunched with
lamenting the opacity of the body,

they can never trust a man’s interest
even when he seems not just out for sex
(eyes focus on me above rim of wineglass),
and who would want to live like this?

And what does beauty do to a man?—
Don Juan, Casanova, Lord Byron—
those fiery eyes and steel jawlines
can front a furnace of self-loathing,

all those breathless women rushing to him
while hubby’s at the office or ball game,
primed to be consumed by his beauty
while he stands next to it, watching.

So maybe the looks we’re dealt are best.
It’s only common sense that happiness
depends on some bearable deprivation
or defect, and who knows what conflicts

great beauty could have caused,
what cruelties one might have suffered
from those now friends, what unmanageable
possibilities smiling at every small turn?

So if I get up to draw a tumbler
of ordinary tap water and think what if this were
nectar dripping from delicious burning fingers
,

will all I’ve missed knock me senseless?

No. Of course not. It won’t.

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December 2, 2002, by Juliana Spahr

As it happens every night, beloveds, while we turned in the night
sleeping uneasily the world went on without us.

We live in our own time zone and there are only a small million of
us in this time zone and the world as a result has a tendency to
begin and end without us.

While we turned sleeping uneasily at least ten were injured in a
bomb blast in Bombay and four killed in Palestine.

While we turned sleeping uneasily a warehouse of food aid was
destroyed, stocks on upbeat sales soared, Australia threatened first
strikes, there was heavy gunfire in the city of Man, the Belarus
ambassador to Japan went missing, a cruise ship caught fire, on yet
another cruise ship many got sick, and the pope made a statement
against xenophobia.

While we turned sleeping uneasily perhaps J Lo gave Ben a
prenuptial demand for sex four times a week.

While we turned sleeping uneasily Liam Gallagher brawled and
irate fans complained that “Popstars: The Rivals” was fixed.

While we turned sleeping uneasily the Supreme Court agreed to
hear the case of whether university admissions may favor racial
minorities.

While we turned sleeping uneasily poachers caught sturgeon in the
reed-filled Caspian, which shelters boar and wolves, and some of
the residents on the space shuttle planned a return flight to the US.

Beloveds, our world is small and isolated.

We live our lives in six hundred square feet about a quarter mile
from the shore on land that is seven hundred square miles and five
thousand miles from the nearest land mass.

Despite our isolation, there is no escape from the news of how
many days are left in the Iraq inspections.

The news poll for today was should we invade Iraq now or should
we wait until the inspections are complete and we tried to laugh
together at this question but our laughter was uneasy and we just
decided to turn off the television that arrives to us from those
other time zones.

Beloveds, we do not know how to live our lives with any agency
outside of our bed.

It makes me angry that how we live in our bed—full of connected
loving and full of isolated sleep and dreaming also—has no
relevance to the rest of the world.

How can the power of our combination of intimacy and isolation
have so little power outside the space of our bed?

Beloveds, the shuttle is set to return home and out the window of
the shuttle one can see the earth.

“How massive the earth is; how minute the atmosphere,” one of
the astronauts notes.

Beloveds, what do we do but keep breathing as best we can this
minute atmosphere?