Poetry: Scott Challener

Selected by Carl Phillips as a finalist for the Omnidawn Chapbook Contest

from Poem with Ad

The twist is the ad that appears in the middle of the poem
Like a stone in the middle of the road.

The twist is that the folding chair is not a chair
But instead a strange vessel full of poetry full of the shining bodies

Of American children made whole, full
Of dismantled wisdom beery euphemism a piece of the melody sung thru gunfire

And some strange rage blinking up at the blinkered stars.
Ah yes rage like you cannot imagine

Full-throated or full-throttle or just full
Like a tank of gasoline after the last gas station has burned

To the ground, where gas station stands in the admaker’s philosophy
For Nature. It is after all either for

A car or for energy and that has made all the difference.
Or none whatsoever. At this point in the poem

That’s my guess anyway
And until the sequence of shots

And the voiceover stop and the birds move off-
Screen and the ad shuts its accelerant eye and

The poem resumes its stanzaic progression
Never having missed a virtual beat my money’s on energy.

Money: that one supreme fiction we can almost all agree on.
The almost of it, like a red pause.

A stay forgone, then breaking all-out.
At the shed store everything is shed.

from Modern Love

And so we walked off the map of our sexual lives

We hadn’t yet lost other appetites—sunlit oblongs, pouty pop, the integral miracle of children,
      reading the same novels at approximately the same time

And the random clicks that led to shareable things

We knew they weren’t random

Still we walked astride one another with sometimes recognizable faces

We knew the world wasn’t a “small world”

Still sometimes asleep the body wanders into the body it is nearest

And sometimes upon leaving irrepressibly we laughed

Long suspended in the crazy attitudes of what seemingly can be, but never is, quite said

Still we persisted wandered clicked laughed found others

Some days it would have been hard to notice what had changed

A late thirties panic, a late thirties wonderment, given way

A livable, nourishing fury, given way

The adamantine, given way

Scott Challener reading: from “Modern Love”

Scott Challener reading: from “Poem with Ad”

Scott Challener is a Visiting Assistant Professor of English and American Studies at the College of William & Mary, where he works on the literature of the Americas. His poems and essays appear or are forthcoming in Gulf Coast, Lana Turner Journal,Mississippi ReviewThe Los Angeles Review of Books, The Rumpus, and elsewhere.