I’d like to return this exquisite bouquet I purchased here a bit over a week ago. As you can see for yourself, all the chartreuse orchids and fuchsia oriental lilies are dead. Here is my crumpled receipt. Sorry about that.

The return for my purchase will have to be applied to THIS debit card since the one you charged just eight days ago—has since been compromised. Yeah, that was a pain, but the bank teller was so very patient and kind.

I’d also appreciate a return of my son’s glow-in-the-dark goldfish, Wally. “He dead,” too. Yeah, that’s how my son announced it yesterday at 6 AM.

In case you’re wondering, we named him after Wallace Stevens. We especially love and read at night—“Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” and “The Snow Man.” Oh, I can see you’re not charmed. Let’s move on.

Actually—let’s be quiet for a moment. Well, I mean me and not you—since you haven’t acknowledged my presence yet.

Can you hear the foghorn blaring from the coast of Rhode Island over the Long Island Sound? I always wanted to live on an island, in fact, but one without any bridges for car travel in and out. That seems like cheating the inhabitants out of a true island-living experience. But I digress.

Maybe you could turn down the volume on the elevator music and pay attention to the foghorn? A ship might be dying and all the fisher people on board. I’m not sure why you seem so perplexed. It seems I’ve ruffled some feathers underneath your expensive cashmere sweater somewhere that can’t be perceived with the naked, human eye. Aren’t you going to DO something?

While we’re at it—whatever IT/THIS is—I’d like to return this hi-lighter-yellow, tiny bird. It BIT THE DUST at 3 AM this morning to reference the 1980 Queen’s song. Do you know it? Shall I play it for you? I have it right here on my YouTube playlist. Ironically, it might make you crack a smile.

Freddie Mercury is dead, too. His birth name was Farrokh Bulsara, by the way. Most people don’t know that he was born in Zanzibar. Now, that’s a place you don’t often, or really ever, hear about. It sounds like a made-up, fairy-tale, ancient mythological city, no?

That’s how Zanzibar could market itself for more tourist enthusiasm as well as guiding a Freddie Mercury bus tour to his grave, perhaps. Come to think of it, I don’t know where he’s buried. Let’s see—I have a Wikipedia app on my phone.

Oh, he was cremated, but it doesn’t say where his ashes are. Let’s ask Google. I don’t want to be cremated, by the way, do you? I worry that since it took three full days for Jesus to rise from the dead that I might feel the fire singing my flesh and bones. Is that silly? Superstitious? Ignorant? Playing it safe?

I’ll read to you about Freddie Mercury’s ashes because, I have to say, you’re not cutting me off so possibly, you have some interest in our topic at hand or you’re bored here in your empty shop or too lazy or afraid of me to interject—(You can search me. I’m not hoarding any guns or kitchen knives.)

“For two years after his tragic death, Mary [that’s his ex-girlfriend, who stayed his closest friend] kept Freddie’s ashes in his bedroom. Ever since the rumours [British spelling; he’s Persian-English] as to where Freddie’s final resting place is have circulated [that’s a bad sentence grammatically].” Blah, blah, blah. “Some believe he was returned to Zanzibar, while others claim his ashes are buried under a cherry tree in the garden of his London home.” Hunh. That’s interesting.

I’ll now finish off this riveting-to-me subject—He was world-renowned for his “four-octave vocal range” and “died in 1991 from complications of AIDS.” Remember those days of the 80s and 90s when everyone was extra-homophobic and suddenly concerned about the sexual history of potential sexual partners? I wonder if there are statistics on the increase of monogamy during those two decades?

Now we have COVID-19, obviously, and can’t even breathe on a stranger let along have sex. Ahh, a reaction—your left eyebrow moved up. You’re not a robot, after all! I dare say—you’re a human! I’m surprised because beneath your black, COVID-prevention mask, you’re donning a flesh-color ceramic mask, a grand façade, that makes you seem more composed than you are—internally. But—bravo! You’re coping as this complex conundrum continues to unfold into the day we’re in.

Now—back to the subject of death, which brings me here.

I’m not sure if you have any children of your own, sir—but did you know that at the age of three some children start the process of comprehending death? After they learn the word and attach meaning to it, they will point to a puddle with a frog lying belly up and say, “Dead! Mommy! Dead!” as if they’ve just won a prize. And then, the awkward and unanswerable questions follow—“Mommy, when will YOU die? When will I DIE? Does GOD die?”

While I’m here and I’m thinking about it—I might as well return my degenerating body. You know—well, you don’t, but it’s just linguistic filler to punctuate the other more important words—I meant specifically—the degenerating muscles in my neck and back and in my small joints (hands and knees), larger ones (back and hips), too (but the medication promises to help only the small joints). I guess you could say I’m atrophying.

I jotted down this note yesterday when I woke up—Dear doctor, I’m just too busy dying all the time, and I have so much to do. Here is my highly-organized to-do list for today. See? Can’t you do something or write a referral to a different specialist who can?

But you and I, here and now—we’re, essentially, having a one-way conversation about entropy, don’t you think? I’m not sure if you can read me or not, probably the latter, so I will tell you—I’m very nervous and will step out into the cold to clear my head, smoke a cigarette. But first—

Do you know the part in T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, published in 1922, by the way—the lines:

My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me. / Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak. / What are you thinking of? What thinking? What? / I never know what you are thinking. Think.

Well, that was fun, but you’re not finding the humor in any of this. I have a dog T.S. Eliot, but I can see even with your slipping ceramic mask, not the COVID one—that you don’t care.

Yeah, I’m stepping out onto the ice outside your shop’s doorway—you really should put down some of that clumped salt that eats away at the ice. You’ll need quite a lot for the ice-skating-rink-parking-lot-situation you’ve got going on.

If you must know, I’m going out to have a cigarette. You’re the second person to know about my “closet”  stress smoking. I refuse to stress eat anymore. See—my favorite winter coat won’t button at my protruding stomach. Sure, I could move the button over, but I’m going to get thinner. Just wait.

While I’m out in front, I hope you’ll follow the proper store protocols for refunding me the cost of the orchids and lilies, my son’s goldfish, and the yellow bird, and my malfunctioning body. Please don’t feign that you need to “call my manager” because I’m well-aware that you own this enchanting store. And don’t worry—well, you don’t seem worried about anything—I don’t waste my brain energy on Yelp reviews, but on second or third thought, maybe I should. I’m really NOT threatening you. So—I’ll leave you to it. So you can FOCUS and all.

I’ve enjoyed this soliloquy immensely. I hope you tell all your friends about the crazy poet who came into your store today and wouldn’t stop talking about death, poetry, and Freddie Mercury. It’s not that I’m lonely or anything, really—was just hoping to volley some ideas a bit—you know, warm up on my instrument, play some scales.

Good day, sir, in case I don’t return for my return. I won’t forget you any time soon.

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  1. Tin Penny says:

    Dostoevsky–Notes from Underground–already did this. Also, maybe Kafka’s Castle. Not to hypercriticize obliquely and unempathetically, I do get the gist: the phrasings, the phonetics, are notoriously difficult to see through and not at all prophetically diaphanous. Persephone and the pomegranate. Orpheus and Eurydice. Tom Petty two weeks after I last saw him live. Sein zum Tode as if oracular. Virtual. Sylvia Plath. Sophia Loren’s mother. Kennedy. Cast Away. Everyone who has ever been throughout time until tomorrow. No one alive is free to forget this existential Waste Land (T. S., not the dog), the harbor that opens out, expansive, the dog.

    Every poem seems different now, uniquely creative, thriving, thrilling, defying singularity of style or uniformity of compendium; like throwing a trophy off a yacht that never touches water, falling over and over. Wondrous. Novel. Perfect. Living is plagiary. The attempt to supersede it through productive literature only proves greater transgression. Poetry is perjury. The Plague. The healer. Adamantine.

    No need to comment on every comment. My comment compulsion is disaster enough, magnifying symptoms, twitching fingers scribbling keystrokes, recklessly engaged in every aftermath to no perceptible consequence: “The Burial of the Dead. April is the cruellest [sic] month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain. Winter kept us warm, covering Earth in forgetful snow, feeding A little life with dried tubers.” T. S.

  2. Tin Penny says:

    “…just hoping to volley some ideas a bit—you know, warm up on my instrument, play some scales.” Litotes of the fourth dimension, to my mini-mind! Valence! This poem gets better day by day. I will read it again, tomorrow, too, as a collaborative manifesto between bird, frog, child, and flower in the evermore tendering light. I am lost in these poems as a prisoner, like Socrates’es man in the cave when the sun shines through shadows.

    • Krysia Jopek says:

      I so love your comments, Tin Penny! –the poetic and philosophical intelligence, creative playfulness, perceptiveness, and your kind, articulate appreciation of my writing! Thank you thank you thank you!

      All my best to you,

      P.S. I’d love to send you a copy of my chapbook, Hourglass Studies (Crisis Chronicles 2017). It’s one poem in 12 sections for the 12 months and 12 hours of the day (x2, of course), 24 pages. I love math and philosophy, the philsophy of math and science. If you’d like, please send me your snail mail address to [email protected]

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