Karen Greenbaum-Maya, Performance Reviews

All I Can Be

(‘I blow, and spit, and wish.’ — Mark Doty)

Too thirsty to spit, I can wish and get zero or I can write what’s gnawing at me. Avner, Avner, I wanted to be you, I failed at you, the way a gas giant planet falls short of becoming a star. You, floating into Harvard, graduating on time, then knocking back your doctorate in math in two years, on my favorite topic, number theory. Incantations on the deep nature of 3 and 9 and ONE the holy unity, the identity of us all. You, publishing papers for other adepts on the basic facts of hermitian symmetric domains and toroidal compactifications. And me, fighting an earworm of Herman’s Hermits, puzzled by my college roommate’s asymmetrical breasts, figuring out that Shakespeare was really good. You, advancing through tenure and colleagues, partnering with other math breathers to popularize differential geometry theory and open self-adjoint homogeneous cones. And me, heaving to get some air, closed off, at best adjunct, never ever homogeneous, always conehead and alien. You are the keynote speaker at national conferences. I take photos of potatoes. You advance stately up a steady slope. And I’ve changed direction more in three years than you in thirty. How’s that for numbers? I’m still scrabbling around for identity. Still blowing, hard. Still sitting too much. Still wishing, Avner. Oh, Avner.

Performance Review

It would take a Flood to get the job done.
Sluice the dirty dishes, vacate the litter boxes,
purge the clogged sinks.
What we need around here is a clean start.
Too much work for an old God.
Look at my half-assed Creation,
guilty of all that living,
good for nothing but sinning.

Like weeds, guilty of nothing
but growing where you had other hopes.
Weeds never struggle, never complain.
Not like roses, never enough water,
never enough to set buds for bloom.

I’m not a bad God, just old,
and there’s not enough incense,
not enough Zoloft in all the world
to breathe life back into me.
Fur-lined gloves keep my fingers warm
but nothing will make them clever again,
clever enough to mold new humans.
Never mind sloths, giraffes, lichens.
Best I can do now is Chihuahuas,
paranoid yappy little fucks
ready to snarl at more dangers
than even my Brother the Other can create.

Just look at these stupid robes,
how I’ve shrunk inside them,
how they flap on my many arms.
I’m helpless as a flipped cockroach,
useless as a flat tire,
pointless as lower case.

I used to be a God
who could upgrade to Business Class.
Who has that kind of agency anymore?
I give up.
To hell with mortals.

Karen Greenbaum-Maya is a retired psychologist, former German major and reviewer of restaurants, and, two-time Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee. Her first full sentence was, “Look at the moon!” Her poems have appeared in Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, B O D Y, Riddled with Arrows, Comstock Poetry Review, Heron Tree, and Rappahannock Poetry Review. Kattywompus Press has published her three chapbooks, Burrowing Song, Eggs Satori, and Kafka’s Cat. Kelsay Books published The Book of Knots and their Untying. She co-curates Fourth Sundays, a poetry series in Claremont, California. Find links to her work here.

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