Ode to the Miniaturized Clones of Milli Vanilli, Who’ve Been Living in My Underwear Drawer Since 1998

In my child’s mind, you were never this small.

     My sense of stature so warped and misinformed.

You loomed then, dreadlocked, aus Deutschland, tall,

     silky coats, fucked-up hats, my how you performed.

And then a mighty furor, exposed as musical frauds

     but you can’t fake being awesome, boys.

Though the songs were never yours, yours was the applause

     that compelled 90’s geneticists, such that fueled their ploy.

Of dance-inspired DNA and pop music magic dust,

     were you wee and wily Uberkünstler wrought.

Now girls (and boys) you know it’s true the trust

     this experiment required would be in earnest sought.

But never could those geniuses get you a second look

     from the legions of pop fandom or those fools at Rolling Stone.

“Once a cheat, cloned a cheat!” Forever now forsook,

     wrapped in a KFC napkin, into this drawer were you thrown.

How lucky that I came upon you at that quiet estate sale

     of the broken, bankrupt scientist who cracked your bio code.

I was furnishing my household, enraptured by your home’s details,

     later folding my adult Underoos, saw there that you were stowed.

And each and every night I’ve begged for Girl I’m Gonna Miss You

     or a Dreams to Remember upon a tiny, well-lit stage.

But you say your hearts are broken, with music you are through,

     Everyone’s forgotten your number and you’re not fit for this age.

So only rarely do you micro Milli V.’s leave my oaken bureau

     with tear-stained eyes alight with loss and pain.

You’d rather remain snugly nestled where mini, cloned, pop stars go

     to rest in cotton solitude, where you blame it on the Hanes®.

Ode to the Miniaturized Clones of Milli Vanilli, Who’ve Been Living in My Underwear Drawer Since 1998


We. We point. We point a finger. We point a finger at one another. We point a finger at one another while backing away. We point a finger at one another while backing away, hands wagging. We point a finger at one another while backing away, hands wagging, jaws gabbing. We point a finger at one another while backing away, hands wagging, jaws gabbing, until we hit a wall. We point a finger at one another while backing away, hands wagging, jaws gabbing, until we hit a wall, at which point we take that knuckly, pointing finger and shove it as far we can up our cavernous, ghastly nostril, dig around real, real good and proper for a while – policy-making is a process, don’tcha know? – finally yanking those fingertips back from the nasally abyss with a grotesque, slimy prize attached to the tip and now we’re pointing again, this time offering such lovely treasures to the other side – ourselves: a hard-fought/wrought/got gooey, green end result of a hard day’s work.


The ones that inspire

Take Stuff From Work
-John S. Hall

Take stuff from work.
It’s the best way to feel better about your job.
Never buy pens or pencils or paper.
Take ’em from work.
Rubber bands, paper clips, memo pads, folders
Take ’em from work.
It’s the best way to feel better about your low pay
and appalling working conditions.
Take an ashtray they got plenty.
Take coat hangers.
Take a, take a trash can.
Why buy a file cabinet?
Why buy a phone?
Why buy a personal computer or word processor?
Take ’em from work.
I took a whole desk from the last place I worked.
They never noticed and it looks great in my apartment.
Take an electric pencil sharpener.
Take a case of white-out, you might need it one day.
It’s your duty as an oppressed worker to steal from your exploiters.
It’s gonna be an outstanding day.
Take stuff from work.
And goof off on company time.
I wrote this at work.
They’re paying me to write about stuff I steal from them.
Life is good.

The Moose
-Elizabeth Bishop
For Grace Bulmer Bowers

From narrow provinces
of fish and bread and tea,
home of the long tides
where the bay leaves the sea
twice a day and takes
the herrings long rides,

where if the river
enters or retreats
in a wall of brown foam
depends on if it meets
the bay coming in,
the bay not at home;

where, silted red,
sometimes the sun sets
facing a red sea,
and others, veins the flats’
lavender, rich mud
in burning rivulets;

on red, gravelly roads,
down rows of sugar maples,
past clapboard farmhouses
and neat, clapboard churches,
bleached, ridged as clamshells,
past twin silver birches,

through late afternoon
a bus journeys west,
the windshield flashing pink,
pink glancing off of metal,
brushing the dented flank
of blue, beat-up enamel;

down hollows, up rises,
and waits, patient, while
a lone traveller gives
kisses and embraces
to seven relatives
and a collie supervises.

Goodbye to the elms,
to the farm, to the dog.
The bus starts. The light
grows richer; the fog,
shifting, salty, thin,
comes closing in.

Its cold, round crystals
form and slide and settle
in the white hens’ feathers,
in gray glazed cabbages,
on the cabbage roses
and lupins like apostles;

the sweet peas cling
to their wet white string
on the whitewashed fences;
bumblebees creep
inside the foxgloves,
and evening commences.

One stop at Bass River.
Then the Economies
Lower, Middle, Upper;
Five Islands, Five Houses,
where a woman shakes a tablecloth
out after supper.

A pale flickering. Gone.
The Tantramar marshes
and the smell of salt hay.
An iron bridge trembles
and a loose plank rattles
but doesn’t give way.

On the left, a red light
swims through the dark:
a ship’s port lantern.
Two rubber boots show,
illuminated, solemn.
A dog gives one bark.

A woman climbs in
with two market bags,
brisk, freckled, elderly.
“A grand night. Yes, sir,
all the way to Boston.”
She regards us amicably.

Moonlight as we enter
the New Brunswick woods,
hairy, scratchy, splintery;
moonlight and mist
caught in them like lamb’s wool
on bushes in a pasture.

The passengers lie back.
Snores. Some long sighs.
A dreamy divagation
begins in the night,
a gentle, auditory,
slow hallucination. . . .

In the creakings and noises,
an old conversation
–not concerning us,
but recognizable, somewhere,
back in the bus:
Grandparents’ voices

talking, in Eternity:
names being mentioned,
things cleared up finally;
what he said, what she said,
who got pensioned;

deaths, deaths and sicknesses;
the year he remarried;
the year (something) happened.
She died in childbirth.
That was the son lost
when the schooner foundered.

He took to drink. Yes.
She went to the bad.
When Amos began to pray
even in the store and
finally the family had
to put him away.

“Yes . . .” that peculiar
affirmative. “Yes . . .”
A sharp, indrawn breath,
half groan, half acceptance,
that means “Life’s like that.
We know it (also death).”

Talking the way they talked
in the old featherbed,
peacefully, on and on,
dim lamplight in the hall,
down in the kitchen, the dog
tucked in her shawl.

Now, it’s all right now
even to fall asleep
just as on all those nights.
–Suddenly the bus driver
stops with a jolt,
turns off his lights.

A moose has come out of
the impenetrable wood
and stands there, looms, rather,
in the middle of the road.
It approaches; it sniffs at
the bus’s hot hood.

Towering, antlerless,
high as a church,
homely as a house
(or, safe as houses).
A man’s voice assures us
“Perfectly harmless. . . .”

Some of the passengers
exclaim in whispers,
childishly, softly,
“Sure are big creatures.”
“It’s awful plain.”
“Look! It’s a she!”

Taking her time,
she looks the bus over,
grand, otherworldly.
Why, why do we feel
(we all feel) this sweet
sensation of joy?

“Curious creatures,”
says our quiet driver,
rolling his r‘s.
“Look at that, would you.”
Then he shifts gears.
For a moment longer,

by craning backward,
the moose can be seen
on the moonlit macadam;
then there’s a dim
smell of moose, an acrid
smell of gasoline.

The ones that inspire

The Pilot

It was just before midnight and I was letting the dog outside,
     the backyard blanketed by a downy fog.
A few halogen lights lofted high above the neighbors’ yards
     cast an orange, alien glow over the scene.
In that moment, I had a heated vision of you gripping the wheel
     of a Jeep Cherokee, giggling like a child.
What would tonight or any other night be like if you hadn’t died;
     if you were still only an e-mail or IM away?
Everyday I curse that you were extinguished by a dream
     while leaving us wondering if it was worth it.

This soothing fog, so like the one we lost ourselves in
     while driving dusty roads around Clinton Lake.
You were on fire that night, rambling about flying, wild dream it seemed,
     fog forcing a vision without eyes, blind imagination.
I’ve never forgotten that silly night, enveloped by fog, Kim & Kelly’s songs,
     high, hopeful, young, becoming best friends.
But now the dog’s ready to come back inside. She’s cold, wet,
     doesn’t think much about lost friends or the weather.
I’m standing at the door, tears in my eyes, knowing someday I will join you,
     shrouded by that fog of whatever’s next.

Yes, you finally flew, dear friend. Between so many late-night cigarettes
     you put yourself where you needed to be, aloft.
Though apart now, outside of time and space, you’re more than my memory,
     and I can’t miss you if you’ve never left at all.
For you’re in every book, every song, every game, every thing,
     your laugh, your philosophy, our lives.
When I get to the end, if there’s enough time to reflect on the past,
     I hope to say I was as almost as good as you.
I hope to tell your son a story about how a life can be forever better
     after only a simple late night suffused in fog.

For Doug

The Pilot

An open letter to the Loch Ness Monster

Accepted for publication:
Dear Contributors:

Congratulations on having your work selected for publication in Robocup Press’s Revenge anthology! It has been an honor to read and mull over your work, and I am deeply moved by the depth, range, nuance, and tenderness of your pieces. I am honored to include them in Revenge.

Each contributor receives one free copy of the book. But pre-sales have started and we would be grateful if you were inclined to spread the word on social media. For a limited time, Revenge can be purchased at a pre-order discount of $11.99 at our Etsy shop. After the book is released in late July or early August, it will be for sale at both Amazon.com and Etsy.com. (I do not know the ISBN yet.)

We are doing all we can to make this collection special. I hope you will be pleased with the book!
Best wishes,
Tamryn Spruill, founder & editor
Robocup Press
An open letter to the Loch Ness Monster