D. H. Tracy

Two Poems from D. H. Tracy’s The New New Normal

followed by a note on the author

The New New Normal

It is desirable that as little happen as possible.
An aristocrat said this, knowing (I hope) it was hopeless.
sporadically (like clockwork,
unlike clockwork), something
goes thlunk into the pond of you,
and the normal expires.
Your contract/lease/tour/term was up. You moved across town.
The guests departed, or you got a diagnosis.
The new normal feels like fresh linen, a little,
even when bad. The new normal monkeys finically
with the sublives where you dream and mate and work; the new normal tweaks
the way you think about the future, light jazz, incarceration, and vegetable cream cheese;
about the toupee of dust on the top of the fridge (care, don’t care),
about fixing things or tossing them,
about the relative merits of an enchanted forest and Rantoul in broad daylight.
Striving and coasting, hating and forgiving.
The new normal has backdoor access to all of this,
for now. And you fall in with the rhythm of where you have to show up when.
We say life is normal when it resembles itself.
We say numbers are normal when the appearance of outliers
follows a certain formula, as though freak occurrences were normal.
We say a line is normal when it sits square to another line,
as though it were normal to be at cross-purposes.
We say a town is Normal if it has a Dairy Queen and a little zoo
and an insurance company where normal people go to work, maybe you.
I say you because the way normals come and go must be the same
for other people, even
if the normals themselves are so peculiar that there is no normal normal.
My latest normal tastes like hard-to-say-what, the way
the blue raspberry slushy sweating in a cupholder
when the lights come halfway on after a movie
tastes like something.
It sits there as though blue raspberry slushies
were the most normal thing in the world.
As though the normal were not churning
and sick of itself and determined to depart from its own pattern
and fade, like a firework, to be replaced by another,
like a firework. Replaced and replaced again.
I want to say there is still a cadence to this,
a normalcy of normals. But what if they ask, someday, What were things like?
We say normalize when we want to compare apples to apples
but in the new new normal normals
just were what they were, the best you can do
is stack the generations of them and hold them up to the light and see the flecks
of everything they varied and interchanged:

in some you are a dog person,
in some you are shallow and buy things,
in some you crave a pallet in a monastery,
in some you think the best of people,
in some the secret lies in a book,
in some you do Jell-O shots,
in some precipitation is welcome,
in some you live in hope,
in some you watch a lot of TV,
in some you gesticulate with chopsticks,
in some they smell your desperation,
in some the dress shoes pinch,
in some you screw the pooch,
in some machines are fascinating,
in some you are civic-minded,
in some you feel belittled by the staff,
in some you wander by the lamp of reason,
in some there is time for niceties,
in some it seems strange that once you just sat there watching a willow in a storm, but it must have
been a normal thing to do, because until the next new normal there was no other thing for it to be


Ode to the World Cup

Iceland (population: Anaheim’s),
whitest place in the world,
actually takes on Nigeria, biggest country in Africa:
you couldn’t make this up.
The allegories write themselves.
You get the classic beefs, Turkey vs. Greece, England vs. Scotland,
ex-colonies out to stick it to their former masters,
whose teams are mostly made up of them.
The global stars defect, temporarily,
from megaeuro contracts at their international clubs
to play for blood and soil, or,
like the brown guy on the Polish team,
kind of.
I like to see the world make an ass of itself without American help.
I like to see enthusiasm tipping over into mania,
some yob from Assholia blowing six months’ salary
to paint himself orange and yellow in a purple and gold country,
or red and blue in a green and black country,
or maroon and eggshell in a beige and lilac country.
I like how football brings us all together
so we can establish a hierarchy of world domination.
From a certain, villainous perspective, there is nothing else.
So it attracts, like law enforcement or the military,
a mix of leading men and thugs. Stupid-handsome princes
sally forth among the bruisers assigned to take them down.
‘A gentleman’s game played by hooligans,’ as Churchill didn’t say.
I like that there is no Olympic gentility.
A clotheslines B, or knees him in the kidney,
or balls a fist up in his shirt and yanks,
and B Fred-Astaires around it all, or rolls around in agony
with just enough histrionics to confuse the matter of sympathy.
The whistle blows like it’s quitting time
and the card comes out like the dealer has sixteen.
I like the way opposing players touch each other’s faces
in the slack moments—tenderly,
tenderness being more likely to provoke a violent movement
and get the caressee thrown out of the game.
I like the kinematics of it, the ball falling through
the finely tuned human pinball machine,
bumper to bumper to flipper to bumper until,
a flow emerging from a string of lunges,
the ball appears to be playing the players.
The black and white sphere that bounced across the lyrics to my youth,
smartly tiled with hex- and pentagons,
is gone! The shapes are different now,
interlocking rhombozoids FIFA-proven to induce more intense orgasms
when smacking the back of the net—
which, at agonizing intervals, they do—
O trembling of the veil!
It appears to be something actually happening,
like the loss of virginity or a knife in the back,
but is actually pure meaning,
like a middle finger, or ‘I now pronounce you.’
Like drinking from a consecrated cup.
The announcer is holding the note,
because, sustained forever by someone pure of heart,
it might come to be transmuted,
it might turn into something real.



D. H. Tracy is the author of Janet’s Cottage (St. Augustine Press). He lives in Illinois.