Ten Poems to Write Before I Die

Jose Padua

The one about being a young man who got over true lost love by teaching snakes to rebel against their masters. The one about running for President of the United States of America as the nominee of the Magic Mushroom Party and winning but everyone was too drugged up and tripped out to notice and then the 80s began. The one about the year I ran around on Runaround Sue as fast as Olympic great Kipchoge Keino until she finally left me for a man who was a better bowler than I was. The one about the three eggs, one of which was a duck egg buried in the dirt for a hundred years until a relative from across the country, or from a glowing land beneath the bottom of the ocean, pulled it out of her pocket and used it to make a salad that at first I refused to taste. The one about Salvador Dali and his piece of shit villa by the sea and how we sat around debating his support of a Spanish monarchy and the best way to get from Coney Island to the Manhattan’s Upper West Side on a Friday at rush hour. Then there’s the carnal epic about my life among the circus clowns in that small town in Florida, and all those days making not love but jokes and double-takes and spit takes and spraying seltzer water in each others faces until we were exhausted and fell asleep on black vinyl floors covered with banana peels. And that angry poem full of piss and vinegar and sea salt and pork rinds and blue corn tortilla chips all mashed up into this disgusting mass representing man’s inhumanity to man and all the years we wasted watching bad action flicks on massive flat screen TVs with cold drinks in our hands. And a poem about those days when we were impenetrable like lead, gathering number after number because we thought it made us safe, because we thought it made us better. A poem about the heavy ghosts who wandered the cities at night telling themselves stories about all the colors they used to see and all the movement they could feel and all the sound they could hear in those magnificent days and hours of history when everything was light. And, finally, one last poem about this table, this feast and the pastries, glazed and fruit-filled, and the drinks we lift like spaceships to our lips in celebration of this shattered Earth.

Jose Padua’s first book, A Short History of Monsters (University of Arkansas Press, 2019), was chosen by Billy Collins as the winner of the 2019 Miller Williams Poetry Prize. He lives with his wife (the poet Heather L. Davis) and children in Washington, DC.