“It’s a nice looking plunger,” and other briefs

I’m beginning to suspect that most poetry, at least the best kind, is reserved for emails and Amazon.com reviews. I think some will argue that we find our verse in Facebook updates and Twitter feeds, but I’m a traditionalist. There are a few extraordinary poems out there, too, that do what they intend; but some of our more honest disclosures come in these other forms.

Today, probably simply out of a desire to procrastinate other projects, I found myself shopping for plungers online. We buy many of those things we’d rather not disclose to our neighbors via the internet, preferring instead to have embarrassing products arrive via UPS in a plain brown box. Even better, you can read reviews of obscure products. Others seem to be more than happy to disclose how well these things function and in what ways. “It’s a nice looking plunger,” was the profound heading of one review I looked to for advice. That did it for me. “Nice looking,” in addition to the ability to shove my family’s feces through our plumbing, is exactly what I’m looking for in a plunger.

I wish I could consistently and deliberately craft descriptions that are as poetic and useful as the “nice looking” description of a plunger. If one such heading could cause an educated person to spend $20 on something meant to be forced into a toilet, just imagine what a combination of successive sentences like this could inspire. Most of my best descriptions, for worse or better, are reserved for classes. After that, I’m mostly spent and finding ways to recharge. Occasionally, it also comes through via email. I think these snippets of writing are that last gasp of thoughtful communication that I’m capable of during the day. Sometimes I save these, though mostly to save the thoughts of others because I want to be reminded of them for one reason or another. And, sometimes, those are inline with my own descriptions that have some satire built in. For example:

The basement beating was about what I expected.  It was an accountant and our grant person, and the accountant was good at pointing out all that I’d done wrong and the ramifications for it, many times.  It was like being berated by my mother, except this woman had paperwork.  Basically, I was just trying to do the job of someone before me the way that it had been done before, and realized after that I violated policy 13-4 through 27-2.  Funny thing is that all these things, no matter what they tell you while you’re doing it wrong, are all fixable.


It was awkward and odd and funny and sad all at the same time.  But he did show up.  Picture really bad Michael Bolton hair, but with chest hair.  And breasts, kind of.  And women’s pants, kind of, but the same belt he’s had since the 9th grade.  And he paints his own nails (used to have manicures) various multiple colors, made more difficult I’m sure because his medication for the epilepsy makes his hands shake.  The girls were confused, and we didn’t really know exactly what to say.  We’re working on it.

My role models for great communication come from others. While the messages I get at work generally could be composed to be part of a Dilbert cartoon,
my friends and colleagues will often go out of their way to communicate in inspiring prose. One in particular this fall described succinctly the advantages of certain nurse practitioners in proctology clinics who have digits appropriately sized for their profession. I replied with appreciation:

You are a friend and mentor in so many ways.  I’ll remember your sage advice about skinny fingers and proctology for years to come.  My first urologist (we always remember our first?) introduced himself with a handshake, and I remember reflecting on his rather large, somewhat doughy fingers and hands.  It gave me pause.

It’s interesting how this kind of honest, useful communication doesn’t come through in Facebook or text messages, and not even in poetry that I’m familiar with. It’s in those old-fashioned emails, and the full length sentences that those traditionalists choose to compose. For me, it’s often the last fragments of coherence in my day. (And for now, it’s the only writing I have composed that I can contribute to an entry here.)


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