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7 Poems from (DISS)INFORMATION, by David Garyan

The poems “Dear Psychiatrist,” “Smoke and Mirrors,” and “If You Could Be Anyone in the World, Who Would You Be?” first appeared in Volume 5 of The American Journal of Poetry (July 1st, 2018). They were subsequently published—along with these other poems—in (DISSINFORMATION), by Main Street Rag.

Dear Psychiatrist

My life is a supermarket full of choices, but what I want is not in stock. When I share secrets, it’s only the most boring ones— especially during our session. Writing this on a blank page turns me on: “This page is intentionally left blank.” I resist peer pressure with my inability to make friends. All my ideas are pure 100% orange juice from concentrate. My stream of consciousness loves slippery slopes, and this attitude will only get worse. Cocaine is what I consider rush hour traffic. I buy shoes that are three sizes too large— just to leave a bigger carbon footprint. When I go to a Gentlemen’s Club, I never meet anyone who doesn’t embody its name. My dream is to build a thousand landfills full of nothing but reusable water bottles. I envision a perfect world, in which Equal Opportunity won’t discriminate against Opportunists. My specialty is interest free loans, where I never forget the favor and always expect something in return. My brain is the septic tank of a mental institution.

Smoke and Mirrors

I like the good old days better, because I wasn’t there to experience them. —Ozka Wild

Ah, everything was so much nicer back then. You could smoke in a restaurant. You could smoke on a plane. Even children loved second-hand smoke. Everyone and everything smoked. Your friendly neighborhood doctor smoked. Your friendly neighborhood doctor wrote opium prescriptions to kids who wouldn’t fall asleep. Firemen smoked while driving Ford Pintos that were rear-ended by other Ford Pintos because real men should never be afraid of explosions and fire, especially firemen. Fidel Castro smoked. So did Joseph Stalin. Hitler smoked everything that wasn’t German. Truman only smoked Japan. Buddhist monks smoked themselves to protest the war in Vietnam, while Nixon blew a lot of smoke and never made the peace, but maybe it’s finally time to rejoice: Smoking rates are at an all-time low.

If You Could Be Anyone in the World, Who Would You Be?

Not Charles Bukowski—his liver; this is my wish, really. I thought about other options, actually for some time now, and nothing sounds quite as appealing. Albert Einstein—or his brain—would be nice, but that involves a lot of thinking and I don’t have the energy for it. A friend, some time ago, proposed the fists of Muhammad Ali; it was a good suggestion, I admit, but that entails dealing with constant soreness, not to mention, hitting people all the time. No. When I declined the face of Marilyn Monroe, my girlfriend got angry, becoming insecure about her own features. Maybe it’s because I’m a private person; people’s constant attention would bother me, and, also, living longer than 36 is a must. Old Hank’s liver will just have to do—and it’s not a compromise, really. Think about this: I’d be happy all the time, and I wouldn’t think; I’d never knock someone out (maybe only to sleep). Plus, I’d be responsible for making the rest of Buk’s body happy, so he can write about what it is he writes about. Nobody likes a sober Charles Bukowski, and the next worst thing is a Charles Bukowski who can’t process his liquor. See, I’d be very important; like Marilyn, I could live in Hollywood, yet last so much longer: 73 years, to be exact— that’s more than twice as much.

Freeway: Clearly a spondee

The stress falls on both syllables: free and way, because the 101 is never free during rush hour, and that’s the fastest way to my job in Encino.

It’s like being thrown off a boat, and given two choices: sink or swim. But only one choice is a real choice, because I can’t actually swim. So, I pretend to have freewill and make the decision to sink.

Yes. In a free country, I can do things my way. I can quit my job and be happy, but if I quit my job, then I don’t eat, and if I don’t eat then I can’t stay alive to make more choices that I’m not free to make. So, Kant? How do I freely quit my job, and, at the same time, choose not to starve?

Behind the Background

No one knows my name in a city whose name everyone knows. To escape, I only go to the bars where people drink to get drunk— where bartenders are always busy enough not to remember their regulars.

In a city whose name everyone knows, my face is swimming pool no one has jumped in for years.

In a city whose name everyone knows, my eyes are traffic lights that never turn green.

In a city whose name everyone knows, my arms are roadblocks to dead-end streets.

Why doesn’t anyone know who I am in a city whose name everyone knows?

Someone is always awake in a city whose name everyone knows.

Something is always open in a city whose name everyone knows.

Something new always happens in a city whose name everyone knows.

You can always tell old friends “I’m busy” in a city whose name everyone knows.

I want someone to remember me in a city whose name everyone knows,

but I forget to remember that I’ve also forgotten many friends in a city whose name everyone knows.

The Post-Modern Man

In Spanish, for instance, a cheetah is always un guepardo (masculine) and a zebra is always una cebra (feminine), regardless of their biological sex. —Wikipedia

The post-modern man is a masculine pronoun in the passive voice— no longer the grammatical head of English, but more prominent than the Queen. Donny never makes chief decisions; women in power give him directions, then decisions are made in his name. Donny doesn’t fix the car these days; he leaves it with Sharon, the mechanic, then tells Suzan, his wife: “Problems have been solved.” Donny is a real man; he wants results by any means necessary. He doesn’t care who pronounces his verdicts or who fixes his cars, so long as judgments are pro-Donny and he isn’t seen in a mini-van. Donny likes the 21st century; he can freely take out the trash and change Junior’s diapers because he’s no longer the subject performing these actions— Donny is simply a man being shaped by his wife, and modernity says it’s okay for the diapers and trash to be handled by Donny, especially when he fears being labeled a sexist. Donny is on a moral crusade against oppressive linguistics; he wants to close the gender gap in every tyrannical language, particularly Russian, but also Spanish. How can moloko have a masculine ending when it’s women who breastfeed? Isn’t it time we let the cebra decide what her real gender is? After all, she can already choose whether she’s black or white. Donny’s had enough— no more Russian misogyny and Spanish machismo; the fight for equality won’t stop until the first sex change operation is performed on the mother tongue of Russians and Spaniards. Donny is outraged—and rightly so: He makes more money than Suzan, but he accepts this because Donny doesn’t really make more money than Suzan; more money is simply received by Donny and he can do nothing about it. Give him a break, for God’s sake— Donny’s no expert in Foucault, or discourse analysis in general. How much power does one man really have? Donny thinks he can change things by voting; he’s an informed voter— he only cares about the issues. Donny never votes for Republicans, unless they happen to be women. The act of being active in politics is wholly embraced by Donny, but he’s totally powerless; he can’t keep his own promises, but he’s voting for people who promise to keep his promises for him. Donny’s has no agency over the law; the law acts upon him—makes him who he is. Donny does all he can to follow the crowd, but he’s one crowd away from changing his mind. Words like “humanity” and “manmade” are thoroughly avoided by Donny; he believes the weaker sex must be rescued with excellent lexis, but only on three conditions: first, chivalry stays; second, beach volley ball remains the sole women’s sport men enjoy watching; third, men are still expected to pay for the date— so they can still expect something in return. Donny’s attitude is a driver in a Hummer who prefers to go where he’s told, but Donny would never be a chauffeur, unless the taxi was being steered by him. Donny’s mind is a sports car with an old navigation system; he never gets lost in familiar places— the computer always leads him astray.

Where Have All the Vikings Gone?

Agnes says she wants a real man, someone who’s tall, assertive, with broad shoulders, and knows what he wants in life— a man who can hold his liquor and watch sad films without crying.

Her friend, Astrid, asks what’s wrong with her husband, Lorenzo. Agnes says he never wants to wash the dishes, or watch Cinderella with his daughter; he never wants to change the diapers, or hire a babysitter so she can have a career, too.

Astrid laughs and says that Agnes is looking for Marco Polo’s ship in landlocked countries.

Helga says she wants to be swept off her feet like in the movies, but she’s tired of soft men who can’t even pick up a broom— much less carry her home from the car.

Helga waves her arms in frustration; she’s tired of weak, indecisive men always asking her “Where should we go on a date? or “What movie should we see?” She wants her man to be a man. She wants him to have a plan. She’s desperate for passion.

Helga’s friends, Bjorgh and Tilde, ask how Helga’s date went with Konstantinos. She says it went horribly. Konstantinos wouldn’t split the check and insisted on watching The Pirates of the Caribbean.

Helga wanted to pay for the movie; Konstantinos refused: “It’s not right—in my culture, men always pay.” Bjorgh and Tilde laugh. Helga says she believes in equal rights: “He thinks I can’t pay for myself? How rude.”

Tilde smiles and says that Scandinavian men are the best— they’re gentle, sensitive, and always do what you tell them. “Exactly,” Helga says. “They’re not romantic at all.”


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