The short lines in “TFW” are searching, wanting to assemble the pieces of the puzzle—or rather, are the pieces of the puzzle, variables in an equation. They’re not long, elegant thoughts; they’re taking one thing at a time. I remember reading Jacques Prévert’s poems when I was really young, maybe in seventh-grade French class. Those hushed little scenes, like in “Déjeuner du matin,” made a big impression on me—“Il a mis le café/ Dans la tasse/ Il a mis le lait/ Dans la tasse de café.” Grammatically, there’s nothing simpler. But the mood they create is palpable.
The stanza breaks in “TFW” matter because the pause between each verse creates a little alone-ness. The stanza break is like waking in the middle of the night to a sound and straining your ears to try to figure out what it was that woke you—what was that? Equally alert and adrift in that moment.
when waiting for the train to the suburbs
in the middle of the day
to see your son’s doctor
and the stilled train across
three desolate platforms
bears the numbers of his birthday
That feeling when you know the idiom
in which you are writing
is soon to be an obsolete meme
The weirdness of meme being something
ordinary idiots talk about,
not just grad school art theory idiots
That feeling when the softness at the end
of the record holds the needle
for two minutes longer
Elizabeth Scanlon is the editor of the American Poetry Review. She is the author of two chapbooks: The Brain Is Not the United States/The Brain Is the Ocean (The Head & The Hand Press, 2016) and Odd Regard (Ixnay Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in many magazines, including the Boston Review, Ploughshares, Colorado Review, Blackbird, Crazyhorse, and others.