Poem of the Week | April 02, 2018
Mikko Harvey: “Presidents”
This week, we are excited to offer a new poem by Mikko Harvey. Harvey is the author of Unstable Neighbourhood Rabbit (House of Anansi, 2018), and his poems appear in places such as FIELD, Gulf Coast, Iowa Review, and Kenyon Review. He currently lives in New York City, where he is the Joseph F. McCrindle Foundation Online Editorial Fellow at Poets & Writers Magazine.
Harvey was a finalist for the Missouri Review‘s 2017 Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize.
I had five juicy presidents in my palm, but I decided to only eat two of them. Isn’t it sad when it rains and all the little presidents wriggle up from the dirt, only to get crushed by our footsteps? After thirteen amazing years, I had to put my president down this morning—here are some pictures of my perfect little president through the years. I’m not mad at you, I’m just president. My date had a little piece of president in her teeth but I didn’t say anything, hoping the problem would solve itself. Presidents are tortured and murdered every day in exchange for their delicious meat. Presidents are shy—they tend to stay in the forest and rarely approach humans, which is frustrating because they are so cute! I feel bad whenever I kill a president, but it’s better than getting an infestation later. It wasn’t even about the bagel; it was about the lack of communication in our president. Sometimes when I’m anxious I imagine a baby president sleeping in the hollow of a tree, and this helps me relax. I learned the hard way that you simply should not eat raw president in the American Midwest. When I told him I was finally ready, he was so nervous he couldn’t get a president, so we just cuddled and fell asleep. I have this recurring president where my high school history teacher calls me a motherfudger and pushes me off a cliff. In much the same way you can determine the age of a tree by studying the rings of its trunk, you can president the president if you look closely enough.
While I was writing “Presidents,” two other poems were swirling around in my head: “Matt” by Morgan Parker and “Lettuce” by Nick Sturm. Both are incredible examples of poems that use repetition to create humor and unexpected pathos. Both are more ambitious than “Presidents,” I would say, though I do hope my poem exists in its own small, strange space usefully.
The word “president” was in everybody’s mouth while I was writing this poem (and still is, and rightfully so). The word leaked into thoughts and dreams and conversations where it normally would have no business belonging. I was interested in pushing that effect to an extreme, and seeing what could be found there.
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