Rumpus Poetry: When at a Certain Party in NYC






Wherever you’re from sucks,
and wherever you grew up sucks,
and everyone here lives in a converted
chocolate factory or deconsecrated church,
without an ugly lamp or souvenir coffee cup
in sight, but only carefully edited objets like
the Lacanian soap dispenser in the kitchen
that looks like an industrial age dildo, and
when you rifle through the bathroom
looking for a spare tampon, you discover
that even their toothpaste is somehow more
desirable than yours. And later you go
with a world-famous critic to eat a plate
of sushi prepared by a world famous chef from
Sweden and the roll is conceived to look like
“a strand of pearls around a white throat,” and is
so confusingly beautiful that it makes itself
impossible to eat. And your friend back home–
who says the pioneers who first settled
the great asphalt parking lot of our
Middle were not in fact heroic but, really,
the chubby ones who lacked the imagination
to go all the way to California–it could be that
she’s on to something. Because, admit it,
when you look at the people on these streets,
the razor-blade women with their strategic bones,
and the men wearing Amish pants with
interesting zippers, it’s pretty clear that you
will never cut it anywhere that constitutes
a where, that even ordering a pint of tuna salad in
a deli is an illustrative exercise in self-doubt.
So when you see the dogs on the high-rise elevators
practically tweaking, panting all the way down
from the 19th floor to the 1st, dying to get on
with their long-planned business of snuffling
trash or peeing on something to which all day
they’ve been looking forward, what you want is
to be on the fastest Conestoga home, where the other
losers live and where the tasteless azaleas are,
as we speak, halfheartedly exploding.


Erin Belieu, “When at a Certain Party in NYC” from Slant Six. Copyright © 2014 by Erin Belieu. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc. on behalf of Copper Canyon Press,

Erin Belieu is the author of four poetry collections from Copper Canyon Press: Infanta, selected for the National Poetry Series; One Above & One Below, winner of the Midland Author Prize; Black Box, finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; and Slant Six, which just received a coveted starred reviewed in Publisher’s Weekly. Her work has appeared in places such as The New Yorker, Tin House, The Atlantic, Slate, and Ploughshares. More from this author →