Uh-Oh Time

By Kenneth Hart

Featured Image: Odalisque by Jules Joseph Lefebvre

It’s uh-oh time again when a woman asks me out
after a year of being on my own
and her number on the bar napkin is the permission slip
to stop hating myself

Stop walking around all day in sweat pants, stop leaving
a nest of dental floss stuck to the tiles
where it missed the garbage can

I’ve got to start taking better care of myself
is what her voice on the answering machine suggests
Got to get back on the StairMaster Got to learn new recipes

It seems the moons of Venus have entered a new phase
and offered the consideration
that selfhood is no longer to be found in the bathroom mirror

And because Venus is such a poor dissembler of her gifts
Because the memo she sent to Club Eros
said simply to put me on the list, that it was my turn
for the bouncer to nod his head
and unclick the brass clip on the velvet rope

—Rather than a flower, a bouquet
—Rather than one date, two this Saturday night

You might think this a pitiful state of affairs to complain about
Or shake your head in French
that Americans are poor beneficiaries
of an experience we have no translation for

But I can hear the soft click and the low boop
and crackle of static
across the TV screen of some immortal

as she lies on her grape-stuffed belly—
the episodes of my past fuck-ups fresh in her mind—
and tunes in as I glance at my wristwatch after dinner

and say “I’ll call you”

then turn my shoes towards the next possibility,
practicing a new name on my lips.


Kenneth Hart teaches writing at New York University, and serves as Poetry Editor for The Florida Review. His poems have recently been published in Gulf Coast, Green Mountains Review, and elsewhere. Hart’s book, Uh Oh Time, was selected by Mark Jarman as winner of the 2007 Anhinga Prize for Poetry.

Originally appeared in NOR 4

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