The poem “Demonstrated Melancholy” began with the title, which happens a lot for me - a poem is the process by which I understand the title, is generated in response to the implicit energies therein.
But to be more explicit about how I viewed those energies: I was writing with my friend Annie Guthrie about using emotion & intimate personal detail in poetry & I said something flat and dull like “These new poems of mine are sad” & Annie wrote back & said something radiant & layered, “But demonstrated melancholy is beauty, and beauty makes me happy.”
I fixated on the performative connotation of that word “demonstrated,” which sets the stage for the stage setting at the beginning of the poem. If I could be something besides a poet, I would be an escape artist, a stage magician like Mr. Miracle, but of course that admission speaks volumes about the emotional position of the speaker here!
It continues in this vein, the speaker indicting & savaging his own tendencies & habits (the dismissive “I have a thing for dinosaurs & lunar cities” is meant to evoke a sense of distancce but also, behind the curtain, admits how I sometimes feel about my overly sensational or spectacular poems). And there are references & riffs throughout, most especially to the Saves the Day song “Rocks Tonic Juice Magic,” but I’ll let you figure that out yourself.
*As a hint, you should listen to the song on YouTube either in the original version, while watching the unchanging still frame image of mudkip, or in the adorable L0vexray’s strident acoustic cover version.
I would like to request a volunteer.
Please raise your hand
only if you are a lovely singer
in possession of your own voice.
Please raise your hand only if your hand
is actually a sunflower. Some materials
will be supplied but others
you should bring from home. You must
have a home from which you can bring things.
I need help reconstructing these crayons
that broke in half after she told me
what I kept drawing wasn’t right enough.
I have a thing for dinosaurs & lunar cities.
I was trapped in a mythical past; I was imagining
an improbable future.
I need you to bring me a really long saw because
I am going to put you in this box
& prove that I understand the finality
of separation. You’re going to need
to bring some replacement parts
for the parts of you damaged in the performance.
I’m going to cover you with a sheet
& when you disappear you will need to yell
indicating to the congregation
that you are disappearing. Can you yell
frantically? I may need to say “I am in love with you”
but trust me: it’s only temporary. When I snap
my fingers, you’ll wake up & forget all of this.