Hell, acc. to Jason Bredle

I wouldn’t be surprised if some oratorical
dynamo were to describe Hell as a place where
your favorite television program is pre-
empted by baseball every week
and you wind up passed out on the floor
after a night of watching cat documentaries
on four different channels
simultaneously, or a region where you
end up in one of the area’s
top five romantic restaurants blowing a
fourth of your week’s salary on food
whose only desire it seems at the time
is to be rolled up in the complementary
bread and eaten like a burrito. The next
thing you know you’re walking out
of the concert like you’re escaping the bad smell
of Terre Haute or a girl who stalked you
from Terre Haute and find yourself in a bar
where some woman in a poorly fitted, extremely
troublesome sweater hands you a cocktail napkin
with her phone number and the words carpe diem
scrawled across it. So you walk fourteen blocks to a party
only to be cornered most of the night by a Chinese
lawyer instead of that quintessential babe
you’d been hoping for, which in turn sends
you home where you stand in front of the sink
scraping dog excrement from the bottom of your shoe
with a butter knife before crawling into bed
and crying yourself to sleep. Yeah, it could
be that. Or it could be the place where
you find yourself helplessly watching
a seventy-year-old, white-haired woman
tumble down a hill toward a river.
She could be your grandmother. It could be
this movie theater where you see Rhubarb
and his swirly arm at the popcorn stand
waving his moose poem at you, making
incoherent references to snack cakes, you could be
gnawing at the delicious grasshoppers when in
walks the woman you love with your old college
roommate—you know, the guy who enjoyed
wrestling llamas and throwing ham radios
and tackleboxes out the window—telling you all
about the amazing sex they just had
in the storeroom of the Country Junction.
It’s possible it could involve remembering
your father’s birthday was yesterday while Tim
O’Brien reads and repeats how he’s
from Minnesota in front of the home repair
section of the local bookstore while this guy
next to you is completely soused
and bumping into you every twenty
seconds. It could be a lot of things. Poems
that begin with long sentences and end with shorter
ones. Metapoemas of the Golden Age.
Getting stuck with Canadian money. Having
your wallet stolen at Space Camp. Being
trapped in Nepal with horrifying diarrhea
while a tiger circles the outhouse. Losing
your virginity on the hood of a Pontiac like Tim
O’Brien. Feeling the need to dominate your pets like
the cat documentaries say males tend
to do. Hell could be all these things
wadded into a pink box and delivered to you
by an old man with goggles riding a bicycle
from the fifties, but most likely it involves
driving down the highway being repeatedly
bitten by a mosquito with “Pike County Breakdown”
blaring from the stereo, altogether disbelieving
the existence of love.

by Jason Bredle

published in Standing in Line for the Beast, New Issues Poetry & Prose

and then again in Verse Daily

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