Paradise Is Demanding

It must be thrilling to know everything.
Girls used to be so full of doubt but now they say, sure I’m sure. I say 1970, she says Nixon bombed Cambodia.
When I was a kid I found a brontosaurus under my corn flakes.
Today I get all of world history at the end of my tootsie pop.

The bodies, you cry. The dead bodies in the lobby.
Why can’t I reply, my mother’s violets in the window box remind me of tiny flamethrowers.
The poor don’t need money. It’s the rich who are always short.

Everywhere I go, I’m an unknown quantity.
Why do you invade my territory?
They bring me hot dogs when I order origami.
In China they begged me to stay, but here, why won’t you go?

Don’t ask, how are you? It’s an intimate question.
I think it is privacy and so do you, but here it’s a matter of public policy.
Infants wear reading glasses to mommy and baby English classes.
You are in another country

when students dance into class wearing chiffon tutus.
They hide their hair in green.
One student’s yellow toenails match his glasses; another’s braces are as sparkling as her tiara.

On trains, the girls don’t keep their legs together. One sees bandaged knees and little hands spreading skin cream.
The Santa Barbara coffee shop in Roppongi brews no coffee; it serves poached eggs on a bed of lettuce.

Paradise is demanding.
The bodies pile up to my Adam’s apple.
My daughter’s into cranes and pandas.
Are we punished for ignoring corpses?

Must I feed the neighbors, take care of tornadoes, split the atom, and make ice cubes?
I can barely add 2+2. I can’t remember to change my socks.
Last week I lost the Empire State Building.

I want my teddy bear.
Can’t I like pandas, too?
Thou shalt not kill.
Is that not enough for you?

The busker asks for what’s left over.
Must I share?
I have lots to spare but none for you.
Why can’t I say that?



previously published in Cecile’s Writers (Netherlands)




Image Credits: Quinn Mattingly

2 Replies to “Paradise Is Demanding”

  1. Very much enjoyed this, the humour and the often surprising observations have a childlike quality but the writing isn’t childish, it’s worldly. The narrator is a stranger in a strange land but that land is a place we all recognise.

  2. My favorite line in this poem is, Don’t ask, how are you? It’s an intimate question… So true, David, a very accurate insight. I work with sick people, some terminally ill patients, I don’t ask them how they are. One time I made that mistake, and the question embarrassed both of us in the room. It is a question that at times is just too hard to answer.

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