Thomas Devaney

Thomas Devaney, The American Pragmatist Fell in Love, Banshee Press, 1999

The American Pragmatist Fell in Love

Banshee Press, 1999
cover by Matthew Salata

from The American Pragmatist Fell in Love

The American Pragmatist Fell in Love

The American Pragmatist fell in love.
The dictionary became the embedded case of “I like you,”
Meaning — a button you sewed on my gray shirt with gray thread.
This wasn’t the first time ever I saw your face
Or the first time ever I kissed your face.
Your face was facing everything useful and it said,
“You suck,” and you did, and later, “You rule,” and you did.

When the American Pragmatist fell in love
They stuck to their guns.
Their story was straight, with crooked lines;
It had God’s handwriting written all over — it was sloppy as hell.
It made me feel religious in ten thousand places.
The error message read: “I’m bored,” “you’re too neat.”
“It’s not safe to turn off your computer now.”

The year the American Pragmatist fell in love
They had a nightcap all night and in the morning called it a day;
They argued with everyone, all the time, that nothing is one, except one.
Wrote out baby talk in long hand, misquoting
Everything so you couldn’t know what they were saying.
They had no way of knowing, they knew everything
And knowing this, they knew it would ruin their friendship
It had to, they were the American Pragmatist.


You know all those sonnets the ones where I said, “I love you,” well
This time, I mean it, this time I’m talking about
Your curly hair soaked black from October’s frozen rain.
You reading Milton and eating a BLT.
Our up-front lies about being vegetarians,
(Milton’s, “I can not praise a cloistered virtue”).
More really, all those times we never kept meeting,
Till we finally never met—giving up,
Till bacon, Milton and the rain were all we had.
Admit now I never wrote you sonnets,
And that this probably isn’t a sonnet either,
Tho’ I’ll call it one, and loud skies pour down
To live on, back-of-the-brain with you,
Milton, bacon, your face in a year of rain.

Obi-Wan Kenobi
for Ted Casterline

Toward the end of his life Obi-Wan Kenobi
was like an old cat.
He was like, cut the pomp and circumstance
and show me the couch.
The rebels had gone off without him,
his planet a backwater of the known worlds.
It was hard enough to do the little things:
get a decent hair cut, mend his sandals.
He understood longer than he’d like to remember,
that it’s the little things, comfortable shoes,
a good haircut, that really keep you going.
And in another hundred and twenty years,
if anyone remembered,
he didn’t want to be known as the “long-haired,
broken-sandaled Kenobi.”

A hundred and twenty years of tough love
can put some ideas into your head.
Sure, he could have as much sky as there is to take,
but he’s not above the petty:
The pens and pencils of existence, as he calls them.
He makes the Red juice from concentrate
and drinks it all morning,
Says his “May the force be with you,” old man prayers.
Then back to his pens, pencils,
faintly ignorant of the window, and the others, thinking,
the old giants can’t turn their ships around fast enough.
Today, the pang of a long-gone love’s swarmed over him,
invisible, like sand ants on a crater.
Today he notices his sandals, made of Taun-taun,
or possibly even Bantha,
are beat and in great need of mending.
He’ll get them mended, it’s a half day’s journey.
He’ll take leave, traveling light;
the sand ants are clambering in song and dance.