The Poetry Section: Jennifer L. Knox, 'Short People'

by Mark Bibbins, Editor

The Poetry Section

Today in The Poetry Section: Three poems by Jennifer L. Knox, including Baywatch and Short People.


Like songs that say only
I like it like that or
I want my money back or
Back that thing up. “Dogs
peeing on people = funny.
People peeing on dogs = not
funny.” That’s a joke I stole
from a really dumb movie
I will remember-unlike my
mother’s birthday-
for as long as I live.

Short People

When Emperor Hirohito told the Japanese people it was time to surrender, he never used the word surrender. Instead, he talked about how everyone had done their best, tried so hard, etc. His speech was broadcast over loudspeakers hung outside on electrical poles. People had never heard Hirohito’s voice before-they thought the Emperor was God. He spoke in the highest level of formality-using words so antiquated, ordinary people couldn’t understand a thing he was saying. So imagine: suddenly, one day, a disembodied voice we think is God’s starts talking to people in the streets in booming Shakespeare-speak. “What the heck’s God saying?” the people ask. A man wearing big glasses translates: “He’s saying we all did a really great job…” he pauses, furrows his brow, “but I think He wants us to give up.” This is what most of Randy Newman’s songs are about.

Saving Wasted Breath

It was a surprisingly easy find at 5 a.m., in Anaheim,
but I’d be less a sore thumb in clown drag: a bruised boob
in a new white suit (pulled the tags off with my teeth).
If those blockhead Canadian cops get ahold of me,
they’ll beat me ’til their knuckles bleed. Mongoloid Todd’s
a tougher fit-the gate was locked at Len’s House of Large
Sizes, so we threw his blood-soaked duds off the pier
and he climbed in the trunk bare ass-been there two hours.
When I stop for gas, I’ll buy him a t-shirt and underwear.
Even back there, his psycho talk’s louder than the radio. God
only knows what he’s got in the golf bag. Marina warned me
how the border guard’s pits stroll from car to car like sharks,
hunting through their open mouths. And that was it. No
shit she never sapped out and said “Stay,” but the “Go to hell”s
and “You stupid fuck”s and all the rest I never earned
but sure deserved-nix on those sweet nothings too.

Jennifer L. Knox is the author of two books of poems, Drunk by Noon and A Gringo Like Me. Her new book, The Mystery of the Hidden Driveway, is forthcoming from Bloof Books next year. Her work has appeared three times in the Best American Poetry series, as well as in the anthologies Best American Erotic Poems and Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to Present.

You may contact the editors here. (PS: Here is another great poem by the author, called Chicken Bucket.)