National Poetry Month, Day 23: “Familiar” by Dean Rader



It was because my
snot was frozen, it
was because you spit
out little chunks of

H & H when I made
that crack about the guy
behind us in line with
the slackeye, it was because

it was droopy and red,
in bad need of a nap,
it was because he would
pucker his lips every few

seconds to blow a kiss
to the cop on the horse,
it was because I whispered
to you in an accent that

does not exist Permit me
might I make kiss on you? Let
you puff puff on my cigarette!

It was because, when we

found ourselves in front
of Klee’s Senecio, you
turned to me like a robot,
eyes flat as a dead man’s,

and said this looks just like
the guy in line, I mean that
eye needs a hammock.

It was because he had,

at that moment, walked
up behind you, that the
snot, which had warmed,
shot out of my nose

when the laugh broke free.
It was so loud it sounded like
a seal barking at thousands
of fish swimming down

the walls of the museum.

It was because everyone
stared at us that you asked,
pointing to the dollop on

my sweater, Permit me,
might I borrow you a hankie?

It was because I knew he
thought we were laughing

at him that I said between
gasps and far too loud:
I had no idea this painting
would make me so happy.

And it was because when
you finally saw him, you
closed your eyes and moved
away from the Klee because

we think things can never be
more than they are, and you
kissed me on my mouth, which
was itself a pucker, my eyes

red and crossed, and it was
because just then the man
said in a confused voice to
someone we could not see:

You know, this painting looks very familiar.

–Dean Rader

Dean Rader is a professor at the University of San Francisco who reviews and writes about poetry for The San Francisco Chronicle. His first book of poems, Works & Days, won the 2010 T. S. Eliot Poetry Prize.

Original poetry published by The Rumpus. More from this author →