This is the “Age of the Bullet,” Matthew Lippman writes in Mesmerizingly Sadly Beautiful, days in which “bullets sprout other bullets in the bullet garden” and a caricature of a onesie-wearing president sucking
on a pacifier appears on the cover of a national magazine. Lippman’s poems are wildly inventive yet grounded in the 21st century dailyness of parenting and dinner parties and Dunkin Donuts, all of which serve as launch pads into perennial questions of mercy and trust. “I don’t care what you say about this city,” Lippman writes in the title poem whose images recall New York City in the days following 9/11: “We sit down together on the sidewalk / and we hold one another.” These are brash, beautiful poems, big-hearted in their tilt toward sentimentality and their yearning for something more, something better.
If You Don’t Want Your Kids To Have Sex Don’t Finish The Basement
This guy Lev, at the dinner party said,
If you don’t want your kids to have sex don’t finish the basement.
I don’t remember anything anymore, my 52 year old brain a soggy piece of kale,
but I remembered what Lev said.
It’s because Lev is the heart in levov
where all the stories come from.
Here’s the story: we were eating the salmon and he was talking about his kids,
all grown up,
and my kids were in the basement playing ping pong,
not yet 13.
There was beer and wine and gluten free challah and gluten free Tiramisu
and the walls were red and gluten free.
That’s the whole story.
The other story is that when a guy says something like that
you have to remember where you were when you first had sex.
It could have been in a car, in an attic, between two trees, under the moon,
near the factory, inside the deep blue sea, in the onion patch.
Sex is an onion.
It’s translucent and sweet and will make you cry your face off.
It’s a swimming pool on fire and a gorilla who knows how to speak 7 languages.
If you are lucky enough to have sex in a finished basement,
this is a good thing.
If you have sex in an unfinished basement, not so good—all that dust,
those exposed water heaters, boilers, and rusted rakes.
So when Lev said,
If you don’t want your kids to have sex don’t finish the basement,
I took a bite of my salmon and here’s the last part of the story.
My kids are going to grow up and have sex.
A sad and wide-eyed, ecstatic sex, if they’re lucky,
and so I left the table in the dark, middle of winter to finish the basement—
buy some rugs, some cheap pillows, and a jukebox,
one of those old school Wurlitzer’s with the automatic eye.
Fill it up with all the songs that make your heart burst, I will tell them.
Play your music
til the needle runs those records bare bone beauty and glisten.
Mesmerizingly Sadly Beautiful, humming with antic energy, takes on issues of sex, politics, race, religion, and poetry, all subjects our mothers warned us not to bring up at a dinner party. At times dreamily or nightmarishly surreal, at others so realistic we laugh or cringe in recognition. It’s outrageously American, crass, funny, fast talking, unbound, and yes, sadly beautiful.