David Kirby
PO Box 1142
At Dave Lynn’s party, I see a recipe for baked chicken on Dave Lynn’s
refrigerator, and when Dave Lynn rushes in for another bottle
of wine, I say, “What’s with the recipe, Dave?” and he says, “Jim
and I make that two or three times a week, and we keep it there
so we don’t lose it” and rushes out again, and I think,
which is better, to eat something you know will be delicious every time

or to roll the dice and try something new, hoping that it’ll be even
more delectable than your usual fare yet realizing
that while your new dish could be (a) just as scrumptious as the old one or
(b) superior to it in scrumptiousness, it might be (c) something you wouldn’t
serve your worst enemy—come to think of it, something
you would serve your worst enemy, given its hideous appearance and taste.

There’s a lot to be said for sameness: Every English cop show I’ve
ever watched tells me that the average male inspector has a boss
who thinks he’s rubbish, an ex-wife or -girlfriend who thinks he’s rubbish,
and an adoring female deputy who is too shy to have a go at him,
which is just as well since she’d only end up thinking him rubbish.
Obviously the entire criminal underworld thinks he’s rubbish,

and its representatives don’t mind telling him that to his face over the course
of the investigation and then again just as he arrests them.
Optional: a teenaged child, usually a daughter, who thinks he’s rubbish.
One of the guests at Dave Lynn’s party is Ken Beattie, the guy who
runs the sound system at university events, and I’m telling him
I’m going to present some new poems at my upcoming reading

because he’s heard the old ones already, and Ken says
don’t do that, people like to hear the old ones the way they like
to hear their favorite songs on the radio, and I think, that’s okay
for Keats, but what if you’re not Keats? During World War II,
the Allies maintained a secret camp in Virginia for Nazi prisoners
of war. Because they spoke German, the interrogators were Jews,

many of whom still had family in the camps. Understandably,
they are harsh with their subjects, but when the war ends,
the Allies rounds up scientists instead of generals, and the mission
changes: the West needs the scientists’ expertise, so now
the interrogators play volleyball and chess with their charges,
bring them liquor and newspapers, take them on shopping trips

to nearby Washington, DC. One day you’re shouting at someone and
trying to break down his resistance, the next you’re a concierge,
but for Nazis. The code name for the secret camp in Virginia
was PO Box 1142, which makes sense, because when you go
to your mailbox, there are things you expect to find and things
you don’t. Today your mailbox overflows with all the things

that haven’t arrived yet, that never will, and when you try
to gather them in your arms and take them inside, the wind
catches them and blows them down the street, though you save a few:
the map of a city that appears on no map, a photo of the sister
you never had, a birth certificate for your unborn self,
and look—on the back, someone has written, “Call me.”

David Kirby‘s collection The House on Boulevard St.: New and Selected Poems was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2007. Kirby is the author of Little Richard: The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll, which the Times Literary Supplement of London called “a hymn of praise to the emancipatory power of nonsense.” Kirby’s honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. His latest poetry collection is Get Up, Please. You can find out more, here: www.davidkirby.com