Writing the Apocalypse: What in the World

Writing the Apocalypse is a weekly series featuring the poems, essays, and recollections of Puma Perl, with subject matter influenced by her experiences as a NYC resident during the COVID-19 pandemic. The series is now occasional, and will include thematically related selections from Perl’s repertoire as well as new material drawn from its particular time in what we hope history refers to as, “New York City’s post-pandemic period.”

This week’s featured poem, written in 2009,  has been set to music. Click here to see the 2021 video.  


What in the World

Original poem & vocals by Puma Perl |  Studio and video production, music composition by Joe Sztabnik | Percussion by Dave Donen, guitar by Szabnik 

 

Oh, what in the world can I do?

My shoes are still untied.

I trip into people’s lives

and out again,

intimacy as random

as a taxi cab.

 

I am a broken basket.

Don’t put your eggs in me.

The writer in Georgica, LI, NY. | Photo by Annie Petrie

Like Bowie’s girl,

I prefer to stay in my room,

and my eyes are gray.

Sometimes.

 

It is always sometimes,

and never forever.

 

My hands are not my hands.

They tell their own stories

in street Spanish,

sign language.

 

A knife in the park.

A fall on a Central Park rock.

An open artery.

 

The right one,

evenly tanned.

The writer on the St. Charles Bridge in Prague. | Photo by Cynthia Ross

On the left,

a ring made from a fork.

 

It won’t come off.

I don’t remember

where I got it,

or how it wrapped

itself around me.

 

I don’t remember

names, places, birthdays

or my babies’ first words.

 

I remember this morning.

 

Keys on the coffee table,

English muffin,

butter melting,

hot cup in the car,

Lou Reed, Sweet Jane,

Chinese proverbs.

 

Lives saved like pennies,

collected and spent.

 

I made a pact to live

until I die by hands

Sunrise on Lower East Side. | Photo by Puma Perl

other than my own.

 

So what in the world can I do?

 

What in the world can I do?

My shoes are still untied.

I trip into people’s lives

and out again,

intimacy as random

as a taxi cab.

 

I am a broken basket.

Don’t put your eggs in me.

 

Lives saved like pennies,

collected and spent.

 

I made a pact to live…

I made a pact to live.

 

So what in the world

What in the world

Can I do?

 

© puma perl, 12/22/09

 

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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