Excerpts from C.J. Waterman’s poetry manuscript, My Teary TV Breakdown, a finalist for the 2015 TS Book Prize.
Heard a clot, my ember broke.
The reporters reporting early
took ample note & transmitted injuries.
Called me a fiery brigade
with clothing torn perfectly fit
for display in a catalog of hostages.
I’m browsing it & I
pick only the fattest, gooiest,
most rottingly odiferous
& those in resemblance of carnage.
I arrange them statuesque
grouped according to dismemberment.
I watched myself blowing up the airplane in Hi Def. I cut out the exposition & flew past the boring parts. I froze the frame on the part where the first little bit of infantile fire began to peek through the barely cracking cockpit & shed a single tear. As I played myself on playback I felt like a parent sending their child to school for the first time or walking them down the aisle. I watched myself laughing at puking children choking back smoke & slow roasting outside of an oven. My ‘World’s Best Dad’ t-shirt creates its own armpit stains.
Willy-nilly firehole participant
dodged whatever shrapnel I overdrew.
Peeled the explosion back
along the dotted line. Diagrammed
outward into the swirl of altered traffic.
I as the timer inside light decreed sparks fly,
otherwise space fully unoccupied. The stop
stopped as suddenly as mines blew.
Features standard for those watching at home.
The first scene was the last
great classic tragedy. The last scene
was a mountainous epic crumbled
into coffee sweetener. I’d have liked
to grab representations of dismemberment
by the neck, pointed to intestines
& called them a useless hack.
I planted the seed & in spring fires bloomed in the sky. Every eye marveled at the beauty & every mouth commented on the colors. Fingers sifting pricked themselves on shrapnel. Ears listening heard screams they couldn’t muffle. Every leg ran away.
Explosions blowing up my phone &
my feed with me feeding off
digital misery lost its backbone.
I searched the disaster & the disaster
searched me out to tuck itself inside.
I lost track of the body count when I blew off my fingers.
Trusted sources scoff at the forefront.
Humble cameramen hand me my fingers on ice.
I have planted surveillance in cracks of the tarmac. Got a sapling to grow inverted with its face to the sky. Got it personalized with a lazer. Got it person shined in the meantime. A branch has a pulse of its own. The broach with a pulse is often enamel, tearing apart the runaway, often implanted in the holograph of itself with flash flash flashing dripping in congealed highways from my lips. I want to kiss with them! I want to yell reciprocated internal combustions. Shared crankshaft powerful cheap. Below Mach 2 a time consuming explosion. Enough diesel to carve conversations into clouds.
At my teary TV breakdown I spoke of my limbs’ near erasure & the creaky mattress embedded in my skin. I hadn’t slept for days unless replicating a seat-slightly-reclined alignment. I tried to get back upright but ended up in line with ghosts. My relatives got grilled on the ride down into faceplant paradise. Unknown how I came to be unbroken. I was found reassembling the left wing, soldering unrelated fragments with a tongue outstretched. Rescue efforts were hindered when I took flight & partial reenactments available upon request.
I applied creams & salves to the tender filets that buried my face.
Underneath mixed carcasses even strong search beams didn’t penetrate.
Noticable scrapes were intact across skinscapes,
forced to yield to the drab, colorless ground.
Scrapes like bodies were dragged to the burial plot & forced
to yield color to the drab, colorless ground.
The scrape I nursed bled screeches
impersonated widely, legally.
The scum my scrapes showed off gained international praise,
my cordless memories developed a problem with cocaine.
I found myself on one side of a river in the middle of nowhere with no way to cross to the other side. Once the flames died I built a bridge with airplane remains & the tender bones of its inhabitants. The rubber soles of my sneakers melted on the scorched bones until my bones melded with those bones. The mass grave I carried below the waist grew as I made my way to civilization. During my first primetime interview I extolled the virtues of camaraderie with the dead.
The green grass cushioning my rear as I gaze up & make a wish on shooting stars. The shooting stars on which I couldn’t afford a ticket. Can’t fly this year. Can’t fly next year. Can’t fly on the back of a reporter as wisps on hair cover eyes during live broadcast & the strands caught between her teeth spit out a report best left unheard. I heard they only found a tooth glistening lonely on the sidewalk. I said I’d stick it in my filthy mouth to chew metal. I felt something come over me. I smelled a detonation coming from weeks off. I saw a plane crash through my TV & into my heart.
In the steaming hole I can’t get reception or pick up a single signal. I can’t see through the smoke & I can’t be seen streaming because my camera can’t see through the smoke. I can’t see through the camera lens in all this smoke. I can’t smoke a cigarette without the smoke upsetting the piles of passengers below my feet though none are obeying the ‘No Smoking’ signs posted everywhere.
Twisted torsos dance limbless across the tarmac trying to grab my attention. The torsos surround me in a rubbing. Undress my skin to meet the fiery air. Baste me in bloody. Crash planes into me until I cum buckets of explosion. The torsos lap it up & beg for my hand in marriage. I’m unsure. I fall for only the most singed specimens. I can’t get it up for burns of the second degree.
When I conceived my airplane baby I didn’t mean for him to grow up. I didn’t mean for legs to lengthen & hairs to grow on his chin. I wanted him small enough to drown in a bucket or reliably smash under the wheel of a car. But he grew up. Big enough to hold 524 people. He got a job with a major corporation & shuffled back & forth across the country all day. When he next traipses into my neck of the woods I’ll make him into a fireworks display too big to celebrate national pride.
Dear god & dad. Dear matronly crossing-guard blazing orange outside mPy window. Dear shooting range dear hole in the ground. Dear Jupiter. You’ve seen my marvelous creation now. At the first anniversary I want a parade replete with tear gas. Trolleys should pepper the streets with the unidentified wearing wings & acting like condiments to the proceedings. Dear beating by baton to which I looked forward. Dear ash hail dear wondering why newswoman. Harvest time is the best time. Hallowed blowtorches trickle out the best secrets. Itinerant wanderings are best left as buried shoeboxes along an unknown trail. The best disguises change hairstyles & tattoos daily. Dear forthcoming heat. I love you as only a mother could. My breasts are tender from the flammables you pump me with nightly. You say me getting knocked out by noxious fumes buys barbed-wire jewelry for the fallen. I want them naked hungry splayed across tarmac. I want them juggling engine parts for my affection. I want their competitions with me as the grand prize to commence with them setting themselves afire. Dear officer. Dear search beams. I may be in the bushes. I may be a masterpiece looted in the aftermath. This is a fixed point dear night. I had to rip you open bloody like only a flaregun could. What I did shone brighter than the stars & was a glint in more eyes. Dearbuildingcodesdearsky I expected you to follow my lead. Dear explosion I envisioned greater distance. Dear sunglasses dear negligence from security personnel. Dear camera crews dear reflective paint dear onlookers dear goading smack on my ass. Dear scheduled beating. I look forward to our next meeting.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Waterman is the author of the chapbook Unstoppable Citizen (The Chapbook, Vol 1, 2011). Other poems from My Teary TV Breakdown have appeared/ are forthcoming in Lamination Colony, SCUD, Moonshot & Metazen. Other poems have recently appeared in Deluge, Gobbet, Everyday Genius, Whole Beast Rag & Similar Peaks. He published the now defunct chapbook series Wheelchair Party. He earned his MFA in Poetry alongside Touchdown Jesus at the University of Notre Dame.
ABOUT MY TEARY TV BREAKDOWN
It felt like every time I flew on an airplane from 2005 to 2009 or so, I would open my bag upon arrival and be greeted by a handbill informing me that my luggage had been thoroughly searched in the name of national security. With that small piece of paper in my hand I felt like I possessed all of the paranoia and anxiety of the airport, like I held all of the patdowns and scans and terse looks in my hand. At some point I threw the last of these papers in the trash and all I had to remind me of the implicit possibility of violence at any unexpected time was the screens that surround me. To put it another way: I live in a world of violent explosions but in a corner of it where they don’t usually occur. These poems use the airport as setting for exploration of the ways that broadcasted violence fetishizes itself while preying on collective fears. The narrator is a conduit of barbarity, neither victim or perpetrator, just caught in a breaking report that’s likely to see cancellation before completion.