“Writing the Apocalypse” is a weekly series featuring the poems of Puma Perl, with subject matter influenced by her experiences as a NYC resident during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Talking to the Walls | By Puma Perl
The dog has grown tired of listening to me.
Maybe I can engage my posters in conversation.
I lean against the wall and look at Lou.
He gazes impassively at a point above my head.
Below his face, in gold sharpie, he’d once
inscribed “To Puma with love.”
This was as a favor to his assistant, Beth.
She told me years later that he loved my name.
I know you have no idea who I am, I begin.
You’re right, he replies, cutting me off.
But you’ve lived with me for 20 years;
Don’t I at least look a little familiar?
I live in a lot of places.
He still hasn’t looked at me.
So, what do you think of that Michael Imperioli book?
I ask, trying to create a dialogue of some kind.
The kid who used to deliver the bacon?
I thought his name was Tim.
Yeah, the guy from the Sopranos.
Jack. That was name, Jack.
What Sopranos? He worked in a diner.
Did you like the way he portrayed your character?
He forgot one of the strawberry shakes.
He probably never read Imperioli’s book.
It came out five years after he died,
so how could he? But you never know
the real story with dead people.
Still, I feel like an idiot.
He makes me nervous
even though he’s under glass
and has no body.
I change the subject.
You wanna hear something funny?
Well, it’s not really funny..
I have this poem I wrote
that was inspired by you,
it’s called “Riding with Heroin”
and the first time I performed it
was the day you died.
Do you want to hear it?
I can’t really blame him.
I’m sick of that poem myself.
I’m sick of all of my poems.
That’s why I’m talking to the walls.
I give up on Lou and turn to Dylan.
His poster is unsigned but has the setlist
written on the back. Hammerstein Ballroom,
the night of the blackout. The show happened later.
Want to hear a story? I ask.
He continues to scowl but doesn’t say no.
When I was around 12, you were on some
late night talk show and I was watching with my mother.
The host asked what your music meant and you answered “apples.”
He said, come on, Bobby, it’s got to mean more than that.
And you told him, “pears.”
What is he talking about, that’s meshugah, my mother said.
No, it isn’t, it’s what everything is, you don’t understand,
I yelled. I didn’t understand either but I was 12
and everything made me angry.
So, what is it really all about, Bob? I asked.
Oranges, he answered. And pineapples.
I can’t swear to it, but I’m pretty sure
he and Lou exchanged eye rolls.
The dog sighed heavily in my direction.
At least I tried, I tell her.
Do you want me to read our horoscopes?
Maybe Lou and Bob want to hear theirs, too!
Nobody answers me.
Not even the dog.
My horoscope recommends introspection.
I choose an encouraging prediction
about business deals for the dog,
since nobody knows her date of birth.
What about mine? asks Lou.
I look up Pisces.
You may have to cover up the truth, I read,
Or maybe say it out loud.
For the first time, he looks directly at me.
There’s magic in everything,” he intones.
“And some loss to even things out.”
Bob and the dog nod in agreement
and the light bounces in circles
across the wood floor, a reminder
of another day drawing to a close.
© puma perl, 05/06/2020
Puma Perl is a poet and writer, with five solo collections in print. The most recent is Birthdays Before and After (Beyond Baroque Books, 2019.) She is the producer/creator of Puma’s Pandemonium, which brings spoken word together with rock and roll, and she performs regularly with her band Puma Perl and Friends. She’s received three New York Press Association awards in recognition of her journalism, and is the recipient of the 2016 Acker Award in the category of writing. Her most recent books can be found by clicking here.
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