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Three New Poems by Tod Marshall, Washington State Poet Laureate

Wandering, No Clouds

My boyfriend says that he likes
the work of Jim Dine, but I once saw Pinocchio
drinking from a paper cup, and knew that he and I
were both unsure about what it meant to be a boy,
what it means to sing about a host of golden penises
swaying and dancing in the breeze,
tossing their heads in sprightly dance
toward the shining sun. I, too, am a sun, brighter
than that distant star; my yellow light is a black-eyed Susan
against the green field of day. See the bright petals?
They are the poems I would pluck to give Jim Dine
if he would walk with my boyfriend
and me down the streets of Brooklyn,
three men hand in hand in Seersucker suits
or Dine in casual pants if that suited him,
but poems like to get gussied up, to feel prettier than pants,
to go outside and breathe in as much of the world as possible
because air is better that way even if
there is the risk of smog from the factories down by the bay.
There is always the risk of something, and yet I say
if you’re going to run with scissors, then you might
as well tie your shoes together and sprint.
The black center of the flower is, of course,
the sadness we carry, but Mr. Jim Dine, hear this,
you become a real boy when you lie,
and the eyes of Pinocchio need not be black.
They can be blue or green or even purple.
They can be never-ending daffodils or even golden pricks
just so long as that puppet sings along with me late at night,
the karaoke machine playing (you supply the tune).
After, he’ll put me in his pocket like a poem
and say, we are toys and flowers. We are the continuous heavens
over the world. We are friends.

First World Concerns

Parking. Carbon. Peak oil. Free Range. What gets hard
and with what frequency, whether to turn off cable
and just stream. The second world is populated by bad habits:
worry, impatience, fill in the blank. The third world
is the body, what is felt in the blood, vulnerable girl or boy.
The fourth world is what the squirrel, the sparrow,
the skunk might do: to squirrel, to sparrow, to spray
smelly scent all over offenders, the many offenders.
The fifth world is everyone’s search engine history,
that stale air. There is no sixth world, only the imperative
to gather six things and keep them safe. Really safe.
See if you can. See if you can hold them and still run
fast enough. See if you can leave the rest at the curb.
Have faith: a seventh worlder will arrive to haul it away.

Summary of Customer Ratings & Reviews

(five stars)

This is the best one. It works exactly as it should without too much confusion and fulfills the description on the back jacket instructions. It almost made me cry and smile AT THE SAME TIME. We all use this one a lot, and it has never broke down. We’ll be getting more just like it.

(four stars)

This one was really good, probably worth the money. I used it again and again, and it kept working for me. One time I heard it in a movie. I told the person I was with, but they didn’t seem to care, even said shhh. Now I can’t remember which movie. Anyhow, the only thing that bothers me is that I heard that it might have allergens. That’s why I didn’t give it five stars and only gave it four stars. But maybe that’s not a big deal.

(three stars)

We’ve had it for a week. So far, so good! But I’m not sure. Maybe it’s just like all of those other ones that you try and then stop because they don’t really work like they’re supposed to work. Like the treadmill in the tv room. Or maybe this one is different. Just not sure, but it does have a word in it I looked up. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do?

(two stars)

Started it, and it made a racket, shaking and banging big bursts. Thought the pipes broke or that there was a train. When it stopped, the loud sounds stopped! Started again, and it was like a jet or bombs. Something loud! Even when we tried quiet voices like some people use with these things. Nope. Didn’t work. I dunno. Might take it back and try to find something a little more subtle.

(one star)

I got this because someone said it was a classic. This is not a classic. In fact, it left a bad smell, the worst sort of smell that soaks into your clothes. And then it completely stopped working, and when I called, the person who answered the phone did not seem to speak English, which made me realize that most of these don’t seem to speak English either, and the person kept telling me to read it carefully, and I kept saying that I had read it carefully, and then the person said that maybe I should read it carefully, and then I shouted, and the person hung up on me. I will not be getting another one.

Tod Marshall is the Washington State Poet Laureate for 2016-18. He is the author of three full-length poetry collections and his work has been published in many journals, including Narrative, The Southern Review, The American Poetry Review, The Iowa Review, Shenandoah, Boulevard, The Colorado Review, The Denver Quarterly, The Columbia Poetry Review, Poetry East, Poetry Northwest, Volt, Interim, The Canary, Willow Springs, Cutbank, The Georgia Review, the Kenyon Review, and elsewhere.

The Washington Poet Laureate position is sponsored by Humanities Washington and the Washington State Arts Commission.