4 Poems
by Emily Toder

Printer-friendly version

Panama Canals

As a general rule a Panama Canal is a breakthrough

I have never been to any of the places I care about

Whenever I lie to a person I think

this is a very gorgeous truth I am feeling and thinking and I think

whenever I go to a restaurant with a garden theme with a person

I think I understand why people have plants and love people

then I ask for more mustard

I make it real unobtrusive is how I ask

As a general rule if I am in a restaurant with a plant theme I think

this restaurant has a respect for life that makes me care about it

and I trust it to consume within

then I look into the person’s eyes

I remember my memory

and the person’s eyes look at me

though forefronted by a leaf so they strain

a leaf so leathery it is painful

so I endure some pain

and I lose all credibility

Whenever I look at the moon with a person

I research the moon when I get home

I look into its rise and its illusory path of dust

I look into its dragging of the seas to the shores

and do you know it cakes the sand

making it easier for newborn turtles

The Real Panama Canal

The real Panama Canal
is so real

it can really get to you
if you go to it

and if we go together
you’ll grow distant in front of it

dreaming of commerce
dreaming of trading
and of fish and of coffee

When the last president got elected
his campaign manager 
clapped him on the shoulder pad

jokily and manlyly – not dreamily

I am making a distinction
I’m pretty satisfied with it

Caffeine has wrecked me
it’s wrecked my charisma

That is not half as bad
as wrecking nature

That is not half as bad
as wrecking you, a man

a plan
a canal 


There are many facts I could say about the Panama Canal

but deep down they are all subjective truths subject

to perception and to subjectivity which is another way of saying

what I have now said twice

Now onto guilt, which was what I had wanted to speak about:

I will not define guilt

but here is a brief description:

let’s say

you are running up a zigzag path that is also a boardwalk steep built

on a dune, I mean this jagged path is built on a shore, it is at the beach,

let’s say you are running up it

and your soles throb

and whenever you look up and your neck is so ugly

you see this thing

Now imagine this thing is like a pea

dropping down the cakey coast

bopping destroyed

you love the pea but as it falls you smush it

You know

a green coin of grit follows you

which has always followed you

on your forehead and on the back of your forehead


Associate this with me
because you saw me in this
and in this you’ve seen this
blow my hat off
which is gone

Associate a whole park with me
and a couple of swans
and one bench nailed around a neck of a tree

When you associate the two swans with me
it means you cross the thin river
It means you stop on the mound of the footbridge
sprawling the unfussed coursing
and don’t jump in
the river
with me

Also associate mustard with me
and mustard seeds and the even the color
of mustard seeds and even the sway
of mustard fields in the wind
and the trains that trail the mustard fields
toward the coast
and the bugs and even the spoons
that are made for mustard
and even all spoons
and all spoons
are made for mustard
and also the sting of mustard
and the little dish
and the leg of the lamb doused with mustard
and the live lamb

Associate this stuff with me
It means come to my house
and unbraid my knitted
goals I have always worked towards
with me and abuse my parents

Associate Thomas Hardy with me
because of the doom
he cut into the stones
and because of the children from the timber rafters
who were too smart and not helpless
and because of the way
he uses bridges too
to express himself

It means pack your pipe by the
invulnerable now
at the river

It means not use
a toothpick
It means don’t stick a toothpick
behind your ear
It means don’t rock it
with your gums

Associate this with me
the very tall and thin bus
tumbling in the disgusting night
plunging narrow too fast
and still too slow
and the pain in the jaw
that I once felt by the ears
from all the vinegar
in Britain