Spare parts

Here’s an old poem based on some emails from a woman I “met” about five years back through an online dating service, a very ambitious young Sharon Olds disciple. The “relationship” fizzled after about a month when it became obvious to her that I was more interested in talking about poetry than hopping a bus to her city for a weekend of heavy calisthenics. But she liked the poem, and seemed pleased that I chose to cast it in her voice, so I don’t think I do her any disrespect in reprinting it.


I’ve been so swamped, I took
a mental health day, called in sick.
My poems are dwindling like unused
extra fingers. But the signs
weren’t good: first the car
that wouldn’t start, then no heat
in the apartment. And in between
the therapist saying you have to learn
to let go
. Hell, I barely made it
to the appointment. How can I relax
when my mechanic charges twice
as much as my therapist? I ask
the radiator repairman, can’t you fix it
so it doesn’t knock?

I need things to be simpler than they are.

Today my car still isn’t running
& I work eleven hours, 9:00 to 8:00.
After work I’ll rent an old movie
& fall asleep on the couch,
the tattered cushions will take me
as I am, will let me down gently
into their kingdom of spare parts.
I’ll weight my pockets with ballast of coins
& combs, let the missing socks stay missing,
pay no mind to the pens all sticky with ink.

15 Replies to “Spare parts”

  1. I like this very much.”their kingdom of spare parts” is a wonderful phrase, and the latent sexuality in that last line makes me think a little bit of Sharon Olds, which seems appropriate.

  2. After reading the poem at the “heavy calisthenic” link, all I can imagine is a new sport at the Olympics. Not sure if it would be a winter or summer sport. But, it would be one of those sports that requires scrutiny by objective judges. Fancy names for nearly inscutable moves will emerge like the salchow, flip, lutz and axel. Yes, sex without love, but a passion measurable in the details.

  3. Hi folks – Thanks for the comments.

    the latent sexuality in that last line makes me think a little bit of Sharon Olds, which seems appropriate

    I personally feel that the pen – penis analogy is a little shopworn (it goes back at least to Shakespeare), but it did seem appropriate here both because of the literal relevance (stuff that falls down between sofa cushions) and because of the subject’s own, dual obsessions (writing and heterosexual sex).

    robin andrea – I read Olds’ poem as a critique of tantric sex adepts, but of course that doesn’t rule out more imaginative readings like yours. I guess my term “calisthenics” must’ve colored your reading a bit, though!

  4. I’ve known people for whom sex was a virile sport requiring stamina, strength, flexibility and lust. They would be lost in the world of tantra and its spirituality. It’s an all-night sport. Calisthenics was a good term. I thought Olds’ poem was about surfaces, exploring the body of another without meaning, love, intimacy, although she does ruminate at one point that everyone arose out of this act, “wet as the /children at birth whose mothers are going to /give them away” “the ones who make love /without love.” When she speaks of not confusing the priest for the God, again I saw not the sense of transience and yet interconnected wholeness of the mystical side of Buddhism, but an obsession with the self, alone, focused on “cardio-vascular health,” making love as Narcissus would make love, and “they are alone /with the road surface, the cold, the wind”…

    Your poem seemed to be about other choices. Perhaps Freudian sublimation into art might be more apropo. Or have I managed to hit yet another of those flagged words? Sublimation: it’s not a bad theory of the artist who produces art. Eliot fell for it (purging emotion to write). I wonder if Tantric Buddhism influenced Freud’s system of the energies of the psyche, and the sublimation of the ID and the erotic impulse into the creation of art. Wasn’t Joyce into that theory of art too?

    But I could be entirely off on the stray thoughts coming to me on all this as I write this comment…

  5. Brenda – Good comment on Olds’ poem. I admit that my use of the word “tantra” may have been unfair; I think you say better what Olds was critiqueing.

    I don’t have a big problem with talking about sublimation as long as it’s understood that there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, thankyouverymuch!

    Thanks, Dick.

  6. Sublimation, well, holding the seed (c’mon smile) is practiced in so many traditions and religions that surely there is some kind of wisdom in it for certain purposes: spirituality, or creativity are two I can think of. If the body is composed of energies, the erotic energies can be put to other use than sensual pleasure or procreation I would think. Though the male who’s making 100 million sperm a day perhaps can well afford to let some of them go whether in sport or tantra or love… ::smiles::

  7. Although I read Olds’ poem more along the lines of Brenda’s interpretation, I am still trying to straighten my cheeks after Robin Andrea’s very funny fantasy.

    “let me down gently
    into their kingdom of spare parts”
    … is very good.

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