Jacqueline Sabbagh received her MFA in Poetry at the University of Florida (USA), where she
has studied with Ange Mlinko, William Logan, and Michael Hoffman. She won the Academy
of American Poets College Prize at Sarah Lawrence College. Her poems have appeared in
over twenty journals, including Salamander, Word Riot, and RUST + MOTH, the last of which
nominated her for a Pushcart Prize. She's a trans poet; R.I.P. Jackson Sabbagh.
You'd Think She'd Get Tired of Chuck E Cheese
"Well, not all predators are cartoons," I retort to the toddler
staring at my falcon, Susan, on my shoulder. Susan squawks—not knowing why
makes my pizza taste like lazy parenting
instead of me-time. I whisper into wherever
I guess her ear is: "I don't believe you
are angry at a thing, you just like tantrums.”
She flaps off, post-verbal as a Free Spirit,
and perches on the ball pit's hull. Two child heads
poke up like Whack-a-Moles; she remembers
our training: when you feel murderous, just
murder yourself, with self-loathing.
—"Hey Chuck E," I call to the mascot, "she's not your film project"—
oh. His phone's turned to me, the big boy at a kids' table,
sucking glumly on crust like a first-grader on his compulsory flute.
"Oh, like you never want to stick out," I want to yell,
but Susan's soaring toward him.
"If You Really Wanted to Save Me
you would have left me in the bathtub," I say.
The ambulance guy gazes out the window, says,
"I think I'm officially used to being
driven backwards." I go on,
"Depression is inexorable, like a bear trap,
and it's like you were like, 'Nice anklet.'"
He says, "Nice anklet."
Then he blows into a rubber glove, spawning a porcupine.
He won't dispirit himself as an ode to me;
I guess I'll stay alive, a sort of
elegy for suicidal-me.
"Where are the sirens?" I ask.
"Only for when the patient's dying," he says,
"and you are not dying." This motherfucker, he's testing me.
I say, "I am not not dying." He nods, and says, "Same."
The Miss Depression Pageant
"Miss Lexapro," asks the first judge, "How have you failed
to conceal your depression from loved ones, who have enough stuff on their plate?"
Lexie nibbles her little finger in faux-panic (they love a manic-depressive),
and says, "Doing the Miss Depression Pageant is a bit
of a dead giveaway." The crowd doesn't chuckle: she's denying them
her signature maxims on melancholy. Fuck 'em—
Lexapro says, “I am too depressed, judge number one, to concoct a real answer."
Raucous applause, and actual caterwauls!
They side-hug, while still staring at this banisher of bonhomie!
Miss Lucky Strike, the other finalist, scowls unsubtly at Miss Lexapro
(cattiness won't play as well as despondency, Lucky knows,
but maybe going off script reads as despondency). "Miss Lucky Strike," says the second judge,
her mother, "Is there anything I might've done to prevent your gloominess?"
"Adopt," Lucky says, "instead of endowing me with the family—"
she simpers toward the crowd—"gloominess."
The crowd is awestruck—she might have corrected her and said depression,
but some parents don't/won't get it. Mom sighs, a hammy pantomime of remorse—
but under the table, she flashes Lucky two thumbs up.
You Are Such a Splendid Bucket
The cashier doesn't ask how sad I am
so I say "I am so sad"—but pause,
she's pressing my pack of Eggo's to her neck
(because it isn't human & can't pull away?)
Finally, she looks up at me faux-dutifully.
"In other words," I go on, "I am so sad."
and says, "I'm sorry. That's not something
to gasp at. I just try not to think that word."
"Sad?" I say. "Yeah," she says, "Can't think it, can't feel it."
"Does that work?" I ask,
now ringing up my Fiber Ones. "It's like the roof's leaking,"
she says, "and you're the bucket but you're not
allowed to think, I'm such a splendid bucket."
An actual roof-leak drip-drops onto her head. She doesn't notice
or does, and stays still. "There's a leak," I say.
"I just said that," she says.
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