This Is Not an Epic Poem

A Poem by Sally Badawi

Tonight, I saw your name
You published something
Your face and fiction
You’re still writing and living in the world
With that cheesy grin
You jolted me
D: “I never read his work”
E: “He can suck a crab claw”
I picture your awkward hands and heavy tongue
Slurping on crab
Grad school isn’t for the weak
I knew that
Grad school isn’t for the strong either
Those gray halls pretend impotence
Caves buzzing fluorescent lights
Your wife’s frizzy hair
Do you still have those mahogany wood floors?
They gleamed as if she had spent all day waxing them
I’m 40 now, same age she was back then
But I know better
I look at your piece
I see you
Acting all writerly
Thinking about girls and swamps and plots
And it’s madness, utter madness
You’ve created something worthwhile
I want to write without anger
To evaluate your work fairly
But it is not possible
We all come here with names
I imagine your mother naming you
Wondering if the name was strong
Turns out it was stronger than you
I think of you as Howie or Leonard or Steve
But your name is yours even though you are them
You are eastern standard time
Oblivious your name has caused such disturbance
D & E have stopped texting
Their whirring wings still
I remember the words you said back then
Your tanned fingers clamping your wedding ring
At 21 I heard them without absurdity
“You look like hunger”
Who talks like that?
And why did I think it was tender?
“I like that yellow bracelet”
That faded filthy ribbon wrapped around my wrist
Every time I see dandelions I think of that ribbon
Not of you though
You have been a wax figure in a musty museum
I want to feel lukewarm
To will this 2020 version to carve away at 2004
I experience fleeting joy at this possibility
Maybe after all you are not my epic poem
But a vowel diluted in a 15-letter word
Too sterile for melody

Sally Badawi teaches in Portland, Oregon where she lives with her husband and two children. Her most recent work is published or forthcoming in Neologism Poetry JournalMonths to Years Magazine, and Pink Panther Magazine.

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