Two poems from Meghan Dunn’s Curriculum
followed by a note on the author
This is how we lie at sixteen
on the striped couch in my parent’s basement,
TV flickering in the room
where electronics come to die,
knee to knee, elbow
to elbow, your bicep pillowing
my cheek. Our skin the same
temperature. It’s a cold room
and you’re a warm beach.
Ankle to ankle, shin to
shin, and that’s all. Nothing
more. We curl together
as maps rolled in a schoolhouse corner,
forgotten, secret to the light
tracing the dust-filled air, seasons
passing outside. Inside the furl,
allies and enemies lie face
to face, almost kissing.
They don’t know that, out here,
their borders are changing,
were all wrong, never existed.
The delivery guys gasp and gather
around the TV, jostle each other
to see Owen face-down in the ring,
one arm cactused upward.
I’m in the back room at Tony’s Pizza
folding boxes when he falls.
Kansas City shouts. Claps.
The announcer says: this is not
entertainment, this is
as real as real can be,
folks. The crowd on their feet,
children perched on parents’
70,000 cameras pinning
him to the mat with light.
I’m sixteen, all eyes and ears,
a body I haven’t tried, a mouth
I don’t use in the dark of the back room,
where the delivery guys and I breathe
together, one big, stupid organism
in red, white, and green hats.
We’re not allowed to stand around.
I wait for Sue to yell at us, tell us
to go make her some money.
But all I hear is the TV, the sigh
of the ovens, Casey Kasem
on the radio by the register.
On the TV, Owen Hart is dying.
The eye we can see
is open, his mouth too, open
to the scent of the mats: leather,
sweat, ammonia, something
he remembers from childhood.
He can’t see the crowd now.
He can’t hear them chant
his name, the murmur
like a wave: this is
real, this is real,
this, this, this,
real, real, real.
He is wheeled away.
Someone wipes the mat.
In the dining room,
the Genesee Light clock
ticks above empty booths.
The phone rings. Two large
double cheese. On the TV,
someone taps out.
Later tonight, one of the guys climbs
to the low roof of the restaurant,
spreads his drunken arms (for Owen,
he shouts) and leaps belly-first
onto the picnic table below.
Years later, he emails me a video
and a part of me I’m ashamed
of clicks to open it: Owen
in the rafters about to descend,
in a blue singlet, a superhero cape.
A gag, something he’s done
a hundred times before. Only this time,
he falls. This time,
I know it’s coming.
My muscles tense.
My mouth open.
Like a dummy. He falls.
Like he’s dead even before he dies.
When he hits the mat, he bounces.
His cape doesn’t have time
to flutter, to catch the air
before he lands hard in the ring
and is still and doesn’t move
except his head, back and forth
a little bit against the leather.
His mouth open and then
it shuts, tasting
the air, thick with sweat
and beer and popcorn
and what is the smell? He can
almost think, it was
something his father used
to oil the mats in the barn
where he and his brothers wrestled
as kids, all knees and elbows
and wanting and not wanting
to hurt each other. The hay
in its bales and the stray pieces
loose and floating in the light.
The two horses shuffling
in their stalls. Underneath
his brothers’ sharp sweat,
something else, an oil
that, if he could rub his fingers
together, he would remember
its texture, its mineral sheen
on the whorls of his fingers,
still raw from the mat, his brother’s skin.
If he could open his mouth, he could taste it.
Meghan Dunn is the author of Who Also Will Not Yield, a collaborative art and poetry chapbook, with artist Ben Pinder. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, where she teaches high school English. Her work has appeared in Ploughshares, Narrative, Poetry Northwest, Southern Humanities Review, and The Collagist, among others. She is a four-time recipient of scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.
“Cartography” first appeared in Poetry Northwest and “Owen Hart” first appeared in Narrative.