Shallow Person

by Joanne Dominique Dwyer
Featured Art: Man Wearing Laurels – John Singer Sargent

What if I were not a shallow person.
Did not need an Arapaho blanket swaddled
around me in order to sleep less fitfully.
Did not need honey in my mouth.
Or a handsome man
to motivate me to shower.

What if we were all made of light.
What if I was able to mimic an aviary bird,
could hide all signs of sickness,
did not spend hours making rubber band balls.
We are all made of light.
Yet we still make excuses for our egos’ devastations.
Such as my mother preferred her polo ponies over me.

What if the seesaw were to come unhinged.
And your dog bit you in the femoral artery
while you were teaching your child to ride a bike.
What if I did not need opiates to talk to you,
could dress in a color-coordinated manner.
What if I were backseat enough
to never need to say another word.

What if the African continent lifted up from the earth,
travelled like a magic carpet, landed on North America
smothering the U.S.A. as if it were putting out a fire.
And the African continent liked its new home
did not mind being a continent on top of another continent
did not mind hearing all the dead below it crying
out for their fields of leveled corn and smashed swing sets.
Some of us begging for shish kabobs,
others of us moaning for tofu and kale smoothies
with a scoop of flax and whey,
or ribs and coleslaw and beer.
What if I never swallowed cough syrup.
And Caspian tigers were not extinct.
And chrysanthemums levitated.

What if I stopped whitening my teeth
pitched a tent in your backyard
propagated violets and cacti
did not need a communion wafer
or a man’s tongue to feel inhabited.
What if I were ordinary enough to ride the bus,
eat microwave dinners.

And what if I had been brave enough the day the sun
bore its heat down on us, browning our scalps
as we swatted away horseflies and hornets
to have run over Uncle Bob with the tractor
instead of unwittingly masticating
the den of newborn rabbits.

Joanne Dominique Dwyer lives in northern New Mexico and is the author of the poetry collection Belle Laide (Sarabande Books). She is a recipient of a Rona Jaffe Award, an American Poetry Review Jerome J. Shestack prize, a Massachusetts Review Anne Halley prize, and a Bread Loaf scholarship. Dwyer’s work will appear in the upcoming Best American Poetry 2019.

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