Valerie Nies is a comedian, writer and gluten enthusiast. Her work
has been featured in Rattle, McSweeney's, Anti-Heroin Chic, Olney,
and Drunk Monkeys, among others. Her full-length poetry collection
is forthcoming in October 2022 from World Stage Press and her
chapbook Imaginary Frenemies is available now. Find her in Austin,
Texas (USA), ridding her clothing of cat fur, and at @valerieknees.
Mexico City Is Sinking
The uniformed men playing
organ grinders in her historic center
hold out their tan hats for tips
in front of her blue and white house
of cracked ceramic tiles, slanted floors and rocky
foundations, playing whiny music
no one asked for.
I walk like a cautious hen
on uneven sidewalks.
I've fallen in many cities,
and I can't stop
looking at the exposed tree roots,
lifting up asphalt
like botanical Hercules.
In my hotel I read about urban forestry
while eating chicharrones marinated
in Valentina and lime juice, a hot warning
in my mouth. It's because of earthquakes,
the experts say in a scientific paper from 1986,
that's why the city is strangled
in tree roots.
I'm no scientist. I prefer
to think in myths. Maybe the city got too cocky.
Now as karmic punishment, she sinks
twenty inches a year. I mean the Aztecs built a city
on mush after the universe told them to.
After they asked the gods for a sign undeniable.
Show us an eagle eating a rattlesnake
on top of a cactus.
It sounds ridiculous, but I too
have read a horoscope, asked the universe
to bless me in feathers, to tell me I am loved.
Reaching all the time upward is exhausting
and maybe it's easier to lean into Mictlan.
Mexico City is sinking, like all the coolest swamp
towns, smelling vaguely of shit, sewage stewing
barely beneath cobblestone.
Venice's columned palaces shrink
under sea tapestries. The Atlantic can't wait to swallow
Miami's art deco goddesses. New Orleans, a bowl
of hurricaned magnolias.
It's hard not to judge history's fools.
Why erect a home on waves?
But I too have built a grand thing on mud,
have a hard time letting go of a bad idea.
In This House
we believe Tom Brady
will play football forever.
We believe in crisp white linen
buttoned-down family photos pulled
up with bootstrapped dry-cleaning privilege.
We believe in naming
our kids Gideon and Stella
and decorating their rooms with elephant-print
teepees, We believe in building up
an ultraposh sustainably sourced meat market
while tearing down the family
carniceria. We believe in living, laughing,
and loving our leaf blowers. We believe in reclaiming
wood, tinned fish, Basquiat's ideas,
and this neighborhood as our own.
We believe in hiding insecurities
underneath pendant lights
that illuminate our farmhouse
dining room tables, shiplapping
banality behind vases of bleached
blond stalks of wheat. We believe in Whole 30,
xeriscaped dog parks, and manifest destinying
yoga. We believe in screaming
into our wine o'clock pillows
when we see the rising
we don't believe we caused.
in paying our accountants
to get us out of paying.
Late Stage Abyss Abecedarian
Abyss: a word I divested from poems about grief.
Because what the hell does it mean?
Can you sit inside an abyss?
Drive to an abyss? Where does it
exist? Where does the word come
from? Its origin,
Greek: abyssos, meaning bottomless.
How did that become negative?
If a bottomless pot of coffee is morning
jubilation, why does a bottomless pit feel like moaning
knives? And can I buy something to make it stop?
Longing quenched with
materialism. Abyssinia, an empire containing one of the only
nations in Africa that was never colonized in an abyss
of abuse. We could shower the world in
Pepto Bismal, and it still wouldn't
quell the abysmal
returns on investment of a
society soaked in late stage
unfair distribution unfolding at cardboard intersections,
video ads targeting us
with our own words, profiting off
xenophobia, so Amazon kings can invest in high
yield dividend stocks. The abyss sits in a mountain where a billionaire
zealot banks his clock.
Graduating from Sundaes
in south Bismarck on some
November day, at some girlfriend's
boyfriend's unseen older brother's
trailer house, six of us sugar-speed
sit on a smashed velour couch.
Electricity turned off, two warm
Schlitz beers buzzing
from a dark refrigerator, glide
down my smooth tulip
throat, split my brain into hot
fudge and freeze,
on me for the first-time,
flirting with maraschino cherry-
faced boys, who act
like they are men,
laughing in waves,
like mountains and valleys
of whipped cream.
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