Pushcart XL: Morgan Parker, “Welcome to the Jungle” (poem) from Prelude, #1

I asked her where she wanna be when she 25 / She turned around and looked at me and she said ‘alive’” — Kanye West, “Welcome to the Jungle”
With champagne I try expired white ones
I mean pills I mean men
I think I’m going crazy sometimes really
you think I’m joking I’m never joking
All Men Have Been Created Equally
To Shiver At The Thought Of Me
is something I used to think but forgot
or got drunk tried smoking something new

~ ~ Complete poem available online at Prelude

Last October, Morgan Parker instagrammed “Here’s the pushcart list and somehow I’m on it with a poem about jungle fever and loneliness and how the line at whole foods is basically purgatory”. Thank god: that at least gives me a start.

See, I’m out of my element here. I’m always at a disadvantage with poetry (with anything, really) but I don’t know the difference between rap and hip-hop, and I’m only familiar with about five different works that (I think) fit into either category (and I’m crazy about all of them, but I don’t get out much so my repertoire stagnates). The official word is that Parker’s poetry is reminiscent of Frank O’Hara and the New York School, set to a modern beat. I struggled with O’Hara’s work in Modpo, feeling fascinated but held away by my own lack of understanding, and that’s pretty much how I feel again. Images come at me when I read this poem, but I don’t know what to do with them or where they go or how to feel about them. Is it necessary to know? Or is not knowing the point? So you should really follow the link above to read the poem for yourself. In any case, read on here at your own risk – and help out if you can.

First impression: Woman’s pissed. Oh wait – is she having fun with this? Is this a flashback, or a satire? Can I choose my own adventure? How’m I doing so far? Better than she is. Or maybe not.

Yes, the purgatory of Whole Foods does come into it (as a further handicap, I’ve been in Whole Foods maybe three times in my life; I don’t understand a grocery store that doesn’t sell diet Coke). But that seems pretty far away from the life the speaker lives in her head. Who lives in two heads, one in the Whole Foods present, one in the gritty past.

the question is where the fuck
is the sun the answer is tip-toe
into the park at midnight pretend
it’s green like home

Whole Foods isn’t the sort of place where it’s easy to pretend. It sure tries to be, but it’s a forced kind of pretend, because it’s just another hustler on another street corner where organic dreams meet cold hard cash.

It’s that “in her head” that clued me in. That’s the jungle. A pride of memories hiding in the dark, waiting to pounce. A swarm of thoughts which can be unintentionally provoked by a single step, sound, smell. Emotions perched in every tree.

Because I felt stuck on the poem, I was stuck on art. I really wanted to find “all the boys I know // holding my arms down taking off / my bracelets with their white hands” but I couldn’t find a way to explain that to Google in a way that didn’t return jewelry ads (which might have as much meaning as O’Hara’s sardines). Two images from Parker’s website struck me: a gorgeous writer photo, and the cover of her latest collection Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up at Night. The portrait is joyous; the cover, terrifying. Interesting, since I can’t decide if the poem is laughing or crying.

In the end, I went with joyous, because there’s more than enough terrifying in the world.


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