"Big Box Encounter"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
April 20 2010 7:01 AM

"Big Box Encounter"

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear  Erika Meitner read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.
.

My student sends letters to me with the lights turned low. 
They feature intricate vocabulary, like soporific and ennui

Like intervening and kinetic and tumult.  He strings words together
like he's following a difficult knitting pattern. He is both more

and less striking without a shirt on.  I know this from the time
I ran into him at Wal-Mart buying tiki torches and margarita mix

and, flustered, I studied the white floor tiles, the blue plastic
shopping cart handle, while he told me something that turned

to white noise and I tried not to look at his beautiful terrible chest,
the V-shaped wings of his chiseled hip-bones.  I write him back. 

I tell him there are two horses outside my window and countless weeds. 
I tell him that the train comes by every other hour and rattles the walls. 

But how to explain my obsession with destruction?  Not self-immolation
but more of a disintegration, slow, like Alka-Seltzer in water.  Like sugar in water. 

I dissolve.  He writes enthralling.  He writes epiphany and coffee machine
He is working in an office, which might as well be outer space. 

I am in the mountains. The last time I worked in an office, he was ten. 
I was a typewriter girl. I was a maternity-leave replacement for a fancy secretary. 

I helped sell ads at TV Guide.  I was fucking a guy who lived in a curtain-free studio
above a neon BAR sign on Ludlow Street, and all night we were bathed in pot smoke

and flickering electric pink light.  Here, the sun goes down in the flame
of an orange heat-wave moon.  The train thrums and rattles the distance,

and I think of his chest with the rounded tattoo in one corner and my youth,
the hollows of his hip-bones holding hard, big-box fluorescent light.

.

TODAY IN SLATE

Jurisprudence

Scalia’s Liberal Streak

The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.

Colorado Is Ground Zero for the Fight Over Female Voters

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

Culturebox

Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey

No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Cliff Huxtable Explains the World: Five Lessons From TV’s Greatest Dad

Why Television Needs a New Cosby Show Right Now

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 18 2014 8:20 PM A Clever Attempt at Explaining Away a Vote Against the Farm Bill
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 18 2014 6:02 PM A Chinese Company Just Announced the Biggest IPO in U.S. History
  Life
The Slate Quiz
Sept. 18 2014 11:44 PM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 18 2014 8:07 PM Crying Rape False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM By 2100 the World's Population Could Be 11 Billion
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.