Damned If You Do and Damned If You Do

Today was harder.   I was barely a creature,

my fangs filed down, my claws jagged and caught in the carpet.

          I took a lot of comfort

in the misfortune of others.

My favorite colleague resigned

so I claimed his office chair, its lumbar supports

          and adjusting swivel—

Oh Lord, it feels good to just be comfortable

with this tail, these scales, these feathers.

Clothes never fit them right.

I can never find enough meat to satisfy,

never enough heat to keep January from my bones.

          I will be asked to recant

my statement as soon as I’m in the company of others,

the ones holding batons, wearing jackboots,

wearing the blue costumes of the bored.

The stories of salvation are boring—

          it’s all a lot of bread

and dirt and daguerrotypes,

a sort of heaven for great-grandparents.

We’re taught early on to want what we do not want,

to treasure what we can always have.

Vegetables before we leave the table,

          fluoride in the water.

I was in the future most of yesterday

but now I am in the past tomorrow.

The director tells me to figure it out,

to find the emotion, but I’ve found so much of it

that I’ve chosen to cease feeling entirely.

          I’m chewing the scenery,

clawing the black sheet over the window to shreds.



Ross White is the author of How We Came Upon the Colony (Unicorn Press, 2014) and The Polite Society (Unicorn Press, forthcoming). With Matthew Olzmann, he edited Another & Another: An Anthology from the Grind Daily Writing Series (Bull City Press, 2012). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Best New Poets 2012, New England Review, Poetry Daily, and The Southern Review, among others. A recipient of scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, he teaches creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics.