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Poem Inspired by "Catch 22"

I Never Read the Book


Catch-22 is a book I tell people

I’ve read, but I’m not sure

I have... then again my high school

was always half on fire

& this one time, they removed

all carbonated beverages

from the vending machines

so I skipped school for months

& hid out in a Starbucks

down the street where I learned

the art of poetry, how to use

Frappuccino as lubricant

how to crush on baristas

then get politely rejected

meanwhile my classmates

were flying too many missions

over a neighborhood that didn’t care

about them, they were beaten

down by clouds that looked like

police officers or by substitute

teachers out for blood- um yeah

I probably didn’t read it, oh well

So before seeing the Subversive

production of Catch-22, I text

my friend Cliff who’s always

provided a spark to my mind

basically, Catch-22 is about

a shitload of things, like the absolute

power of bureaucracy

or the impotence of language

how we’re all a little insane

these days

I think about these things

as I walk to Great Arrow

from my home in the Elmwood

Village, which is a dumb way

of saying you live off Elmwood

& want to convince people

you’re a politically-progressive artist

There’s a plane overhead

Anyway, I want it to rain

raindrops that take the shape

of submarine sandwiches

because I’m in mourning

the Subway on the corner

of Elmwood & Forest

has been abandoned, windows

shuttered & I remember when

my mom would ask me to

pick her up a turkey foot long

because she enjoyed having one

after therapy, across the street

The psychiatric center

still sits, but the lobotomies

have been replaced with omelettes

forced forgetfulness replaced

with willing forgetfulness, drinks

instead of needles

but not really

despite it now being a boutique hotel

I often wonder if it sometimes

breaks into crazy

the way people do

imagine if one morning

posh people are eating brunch

& suddenly the walls start shaking

they start swearing, murmurs

through the plaster, servers

& hostesses declaring, “The building’s

been going through a lot lately...”

then they transform into nurses

& doctors & use their electroshocked

fingers to storm the building

into an acceptable state of normalcy

they get better tips that way

I keep walking

& now there two planes

in the sky

& in front of McKinley High School

there are some football players

waiting for the bus

they’re half wearing their gear

so they look more like unfinished

concussion robots

or maybe they’re more like

robots who are learning

how to become human

so they’re shedding their machinery

bit by bit

some are eating sandwiches

some are staring at iPhones

they all look like soldiers

I hope they win the big game

The sound of more planes

On the sidewalk

there’s a used chapstick

with ‘Give” on the label

I imagine when the world ends

a group of lonely people

will sit in a circle

& pass around the world’s last chapstick

they keep using it

until there’s nothing left

nothing to put on your lips

not even love

& you’ll always feel chapped

I walk past Voelkers

today a coworker

told me that this is the actual place

where McKinley was shot

& Buffalo turned it into

a bowling alley

not a museum

“Typical Buffalo,” he said

I can’t validate his beliefs

“What about that tiny plaque

on Delaware?” I ask

“It’s only telling

half the truth” he calmly says

so we move onto a different topic

Then I’m smoking in front of

the Great Arrow building

where once I “ran” a theater company

now I’m thinking about all the productions

we could’ve done

suddenly the Subversive doorman

asks me, “Are you in the show?”

& all I can say is, “I don’t think so

I’m coming to see it though”

he’s persistent

“Are you sure you’re not in the show?”

I just wanna scream

that it doesn’t matter

that he should pay more attention

to all the planes in the sky

but I don’t

because I’m secretly worried

he’ll be like, “What planes?”

The show’s about to begin

time to climb up some stairs


I don’t think I ever read Catch-22

but does it really matter?


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