(1) WEIRD AIRPLANE
It’s a local. It makes landings in every major city. They announce the stops beforehand, both over the intercom and on those silly mini-TV’s that drop down in that pretentious way.
However, if nobody pulls the cord it skips that stop. So watch and listen carefully. Check your schedule frequently. Don’t get too caught up in book or conversation. It will be a long flight but don’t fall asleep.
(2) WEIRD GROCERY STORE
At checkout they put your groceries in the cart of the person in front of you. What the person behind you has chosen is what you’ll get.
Redistribution of the wealth. It’ll be a surprise. But you’re throwing a party tonight and need the ingredients you chose. Hey! Gimme my stuff! But the person in front of you is racing out the door and around the corner. Apparently this person likes your taste and is anxious to escape with it.
You have no choice but to wait for the person behind you to make her purchase. And now you see that all she’s buying is a gallon of milk. And you don’t drink milk. Neither will most of your guests.
You have no choice but to hand your shopping list (and some cash) to the next person behind you. And you hope she’ll comply.
(3) WEIRD THRIFT STORE
It charges admission.
We race to the nearest window
and the nearest customer
“See that blouse over there? No, there. Couldja hold it up for me please? ”And is that a corner of Guatemalan weave? Is that a black silk C. P. Shades? ”And that skirt to the floor – is it long? ”Or has it merely fallen?”
(4) WEIRD BUS
It’s turned into a taxi.
Where usually appears the lit-up STOP REQUESTED
we see a counter adding up dollars.
The more we ride, the more we owe.
And we’re getting off at the last stop.
Also, don’t forget tip.
(5) WEIRD LIBRARY
Where’s the front desk?
Where are the stacks? But okay, here perch four or five books.
Mostly, though, there are flowers.
Each flower has a catalog number stamped onto one or all of its leaves.
Or there’s a tiny paper wrapped around part of its stem
the way animals in nature are sometimes not captured but marked.
But at least the flowers don’t have ISBN numbers.
At least they’re spared that.
(6) WEIRD STATIONARY STORE
Just because it’s got all this paper it thinks it’s a classroom.
Moreover, it thinks it’s pop quiz day.
“Hand in your papers,” it booms. “Hurry up, pass ‘em over.”
“Huh?” you protest. “I’m not a student. I haven’t been a student for fifty years.”
“You’re in a paper store,” it counters. “So hand in your paper.”
And so in a flurry, like the coda of Alice-in-Wonderland, papers and cards
will go flying in one direction, to one purpose
one illogical goal.
(7) WEIRD BUTCHER
The smallest size available is 20 pounds.
That’s one hunk of slob.
It’s that or nothing.
Cash and carry.
They own no knives
no wrapping paper.
Hide it under your coat
or balance it on your head.
Get it home quickly.
Pull out your largest frying pan.
Keep it out of the fire.
(8) REQUIRED COURSE
All creative writing majors have to take it. And it’s boring. Grammar, punctuation, even if you know it already, even if you’ve been doing actual creative writing since you did creative thinking, even if you’ve published over twenty books, even if some of the books were from mainstream presses and reviewed in the New York Times.
And the text for this course is huger than a calculus book, huger than an unabridged dictionary. If, however, you go to the professor’s office and show him your google, he might give you a break. You still have to take the course but you can use a smaller text, as small as an abridged dictionary.
And if any of your books have won a Pulitzer, you just might be permitted to use the smallest of his texts. At any rate, the cover is the smallest. Six by six inches, but no less thick. And probably tinier print.
(9) WEIRD PARTY
The sole purpose of this party is to take photos and collect updated contact information.
We spend hours at this.
Every corner contains somebody taking a photo or copying down an email
When we’re done it’s safe for everybody to say goodbye and go home.
(10) WEIRD POETRY READING
also an actual poetry reading
It’s turned into church.
First they read mere Jesus poems.
Then they work their ways into actual prayers.
The audience is supposed to bow heads.
Woe betide if you’re Jewish or atheist.
You still have to bow your head.
(11) ANOTHER WEIRD PARTY
Nobody talks to anybody else. They all just sit there moping, on separate well-spaced chairs or couches. If anybody brightly calls out hello, nobody will answer. If you approach any single person, that person will murmur, in a specifically unfriendly tone “oh, hi” and not look up. Why have such a party? Well, without it, these people would be even more alone.
Marion Deutsche Cohen is the author of 26 collections of poetry or memoir; her latest poetry collection is “New Heights in Non-Structure” (dancing girl press, about home-schooling and other ideas about engaging with children). She is also the author of two controversial memoirs about spousal chronic illness, a trilogy diary of late-pregnancy loss, and of “Crossing the Equal Sign” (Plain View Press, about the experience of mathematics). She teaches math and writing at Arcadia University in Glenside PA (USA), where she has developed the course, Mathematics in Literature. A poetry chapbook, “Truth and Beauty,” about the interaction in that course among students and teacher, was released in 2016 from WordTech Editions.
Her website is marioncohen.net.
Show Marion some love via PayPal at mathwoman12(at)gmail(dot)com.