Thing-Poem After the Social Event

By Karen Benning

Featured Art: Landscape with Two Poplars by Vasily Kandinsky

Did you have any fun? Tell me.
What did you do?”

—from The Cat in the Hat, by Dr. Seuss

Never speak aloud the thing that first
pops into your head, pops like a balloon, black,
bursting in a shock, pops like your bubble burst,
pops like a blister of blood, a BB gun at a bird,
a red blot on a white backdrop, thought precedent
to mismatched utterance precedent
to the stare, the crash into

silence, the inevitable turning
away as you stand there (again) staring into
your wine glass and facing newly open space

between yourself and a back. Never speak
to strangers, never say that first thing

(defined as material object without life
or consciousness; as inanimate object; as cannot be
precisely described) thing thing thing

no matter how often you say it, nothing
comes to mind except Dr. Seuss
creatures cursed with dumb grins
and bad hair and toys that crack walls
and priceless heirlooms now look
what you’ve done and though they meant no
harm harm they did and ruined everything

and they are the only specific things you can conjure but
you should definitely never speak of Thing One or Thing Two, much
less their leader who should not be about

much much less that first BUMP
of a thing that popped

into your own social klutz of a mind, that
perpetual source of embarrassment, that
maladroit blundering thing.


Karen Benning lives in Boise, ID. Her essays have been published or are forthcoming in Michigan Quarterly Review, Boulevard, The Chattahoochee Review, and other journals and magazines. She is currently working on a book-length manuscript about an Armenian mystic. “Thing-Poem After the Social Event” represents her first nationally published poem.

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