“Leah Angstman’s latest collection from Alternating Current’s Propaganda Press, Single Ply and Soaked Through, shoots straight from the hip with pared down memories about hip urban scenes, former hometowns, and the interactions of daily life with loved ones and strangers. I am happy to share a few poems that stuck with me:
“Dull roar of the crowd”
How to make myself fit in among them,
stretch the skin to envelop their ideals,
How to laugh when someone tells
a silly something so unfunny
that one just has to laugh,
unless one is one
whose mold just doesn’t stretch
from the corner where I occupy
the table of one
who fits that mold?
Lonely music plays and
fiddles whine, and I hear it
where others hear themselves;
and yet try to make
our own sounds more important,
louder and casual,
until it’s as empty as
this unstretchable skin
This poem sounds like my own experience at a party or social gathering where I don’t know the people I’m with very well. I’m sure most of us have had the experience of trying to fit into a new crowd or setting and noting how some people try to make themselves sound important to fit in while others sit back and watch instead. I love the idea of “whose mold just doesn’t stretch/from the corner [ ... ] I occupy” because I can relate directly to it. How about you?
“No, Tom Brady doesn’t come here”
Look around this bar
and tell me
what Tom Brady would find here;
yet he visits up the road a piece,
his dad a regular at the
difference a few blocks and
a few more wines can make.
When John Malkovich used to
sit back at booth twenty-four,
I thought it a good fit,
his quiet bohemia mingling with
PBRs and dim lights and
bad-tipping Tufts students.
But he was no football star,
the ooohs and ahhhs not so grand
below the breaths and eyes
quick to turn away,
easily distracted by the equally mundane.
No supermodels on arms;
no small talk because he’s been
hit too many times
to think of anything clever.
Yes, that’s what this bar needs:
more glamor, less intellect;
more shoulder pads.
I had to ask Leah Angstman about this poem and she revealed she worked in one bar in Cambridge while her friend worked at another up the street that tended to attract big names. While celebrities came to Leah’s bar, the flashier and more glamorous celebs came to her friend’s bar. She says John Malkovich was a regular, and I have to admit I am jealous. I like that the poem pokes fun at her friend and hints that Tom Brady is short on intellect compared to John Malkovich.
“Today I was fitted for new ear plugs”
shaped to my inner ear
and the battlefield scars of my
holed, non-waterproofed eardrums.
Bulky and protruding,
with large R and L indicators,
tiny grips for convenient removal,
and embarrassingly bright blue.
In the mirror, I see them
as others see them
—bold, blue beacons of differentiation—
and confidence loses its
Flashbacks to childhood:
those bits of wax the size and
shape of hominy,
tiny chunks that would break off,
get lodged in my ear
requiring surgical removal;
the humiliating days of
middle school locker room showers, when
it was apparently humorous for others
to poke fingers in my ears at the plugs,
despite my sad begging look of
a thousand starving children.
Now the future is here!,
in molded plastic and a comfort fit;
pieces that don’t break off;
waterproof with a tiny carrying case
annoyingly labeled with my name
in case you didn’t know the defective one,
complete with chain to wear as beach bling
to the Special Olympics;
specially formed for my
scarred and damaged eardrums
to go under water in complete comfort
without design flaws,
for my confidence.
But hey, Doc,
I’m sure no one will notice
bright fucking blue.
This one makes me smile because everyone has their own stories of embarrassing childhood memories that continue to pop up into adulthood. For Leah it is the ear plugs to protect her damaged ear drums and I can relate, why would the medical companies make these stand out so much? For me, it was head gear, and all manner of devices for my teeth growing up. A poem that pays tribute to those embarrassing items we rely on for a “normal existence” but portrays us as anything but normal is a funny yet heart-string-tugging poem. Thank you Leah, for putting your own embarrassment front and center because we can relate to you and you can relate to us.[ ... ]”