My Mother’s Computer
In the sheer sloth of another school night, another
social studies assignment, the first time
I was allowed to use it—the same one
she adopted my siblings from, auctioned off
her dolls but, more often, bought more to put
customized outfits on—the bulky black Dell
perplexed me, like looking into a pond and seeing
vague movements underwater. Whisper
George, I entered, pecking
the keys, sheepish, like my mother would, with only
index fingers. Then Bush, for the project I would
complete like the example child I had deemed
myself. Images of a confused-looking man
filled the screen, useful to me, though I already knew
before I knew to stop myself what I was
about to do—glancing left, then right. My mother
upstairs somewhere. The house
uncannily quiet. The communal
privacy of her computer room—interrupted
only by a dusty moth assaulting the overhead light.
His running-mate Dick, I typed, clicked
search—no Cheney, no pause—unwinding
a jack-in-the-box, her computer screen bursting
with anatomical diagrams and plush
abdominal down—bronze men trapped
in the gallery’s rigid grid, little rooms
in which, stiff, they held themselves like trophies
as I was holding myself, astonished
in the glow of that rectangular world.
Self-portrait as Boyhood Erection
And this is how you wear a sock
over your head: stretch
and cotton-sweat, lips
coy as petals,
whetted then struck
by a barbarous tugging—
smell of grass,
of aftershave still on scuttling
hand. I live in denim musk,
a clam unshelled and
in classroom, locker room, bathroom stall—
I live to enthrall and be enthralled.
I live like most things: a burgeoning,
then pink-shrink and loll.
Max McDonough is a Creative Writing Fellow at Vanderbilt University. His poems appear in Gulf Coast, CutBank, Meridian, The Adroit Journal, and elsewhere.
“My Mother’s Computer” appeared in The Journal. “Self-portrait as Boyhood Erection” appeared in Anthropoid.