Denise Duhamel – Möbius Strip: True or False

Denise Duhamel

Möbius Strip: True or False
        (after Luc Etienne, a variation)

                         I’m pretty

sure my mother was

a virgin.       Now

the trend is to take

the doughy middle out

of the bagel and throw

it away.  The trend used

to be–eat half.      I’m

pretty sure my father

wasn’t.    A woman

calls The Loveline to ask,

“Are laxatives safer than

throwing up?”          When

I was a teenager, hoping

to wear four-panel jeans–

left front leg blue,

left back leg yellow (am I

the only one who remembers

these?) right front leg orange,

back front leg green–

I was already a size

fourteen.           The Sears

catalogue sold those jeans,

but they only went up to 12.

Every size after 12 was

“chubbette.”            If I had

lived I may still have been

a camp heroine, but fat like

my rival Elizabeth Taylor.

Who am I?             I know

Dr. Dray was just trying

to save her life, but he

shouldn’t have said, “Bulimia

doesn’t help you lose weight.

All you lose are fluids.”

The caller knew he was

lying, and he lost all his

credibility.  She started to

fade, “Uh huh, right, uh

huh…”   My grandmother

(my father’s mother) cut

up the meat on his plate until

he was 32, until he married

my mother.           A girl once

choked to death giving a guy

oral sex.  Is this urban legend

or truth?            He’s still not

very good with a knife–No

Americans are complains my

husband who expertly shaves

the salmon away from its gray

skin with his.            My mother

used to say the Sears Catalogue

was my bible.  I sat in front

of it for hours, turning the thick

slick pages.        He rented porno

when I was away.   I had a fit.

When I slammed the door he

didn’t run after me.                The

card he sent said, “Do I have

a chance?”      Oh marzipan,

who molded you into such

a beautiful flower, your hefty

sweetness glistening like

wet sand?            Why did I hit

her?  She was so little.      One

year (1971?) you could see

the penis of a male model

in boxer shorts and all

the Sears catalogues that

hadn’t gone out to customers

had to be destroyed.    The

girl at the poetry reading

said to me, “How can you

even write about that?”  She

had gray bowls, lumpy

like oatmeal, under her

eyes.   “I’ve been well

a long time now,” I said.

She said, “I just came out of

the hospital again.  I’ve been

three times, nothing works.

I really need to talk to

you.”            My best friend:

a.) had the penis-catalogue;

b.) only said she had the penis-

catalogue or c.) was jealous

because our family got

the penis catalogue

first.      I am the son

of god, a carpenter, a shoe

salesman, a curse.  I’m also

into fasting–can you guess

who I am?          The mean

mother, the one who never

served cookies, who

demanded quiet, grabbed

a scrap of construction

paper from the floor under

the kitchen table and

screeched, “Who left this

here?”      True or false:

everything is about sex except

sex which is about power

and money.            Someone

pulled my arm to sit me at

a table to sign my books.  “Wait

here,” I told the girl, and her

oatmeal eyes shot something

like hatred towards me,

a dim weakened hatred.

She waited by the door

and whenever I could I

tried to smile at her.

She was glaring at me, and

looking at her watch.  I should

have excused myself, signed

fewer books.                 You can

also see a penis inside

the swirls of the camel fur

on a packet of Camel cigarettes.

At first the body just looks

like scrambled eggs, but stare

long enough and you’ll see

the penis.       The truth

is I’m still not completely

well.               When she

slammed the door I didn’t

run after her.

to the reader:  For the complete “Möbius Strip” effect, print out two copies of this poem.
Scotch tape the pages together into two long pages, each containing the entire poem, then
cut away the title and anything under the last line of the poem which now reads, “run

after her.”  Trim away any white space beyond the left and right margins, leaving no
more than an inch on each side to make a “strip” of words.  Scotch tape, glue, or staple
the trimmed poems back to back, so that both copies run parallel to each other, but in a
mirrored image.  The first lines of both copies, “               I’m pretty,” should be back to
back to one another, and so on.  Loop the poem into a cylinder, then twist it once before
splicing and scotch taping what is currently the first line and last line together.  The last
line/first line should now read, “run after her.       I’m pretty” on both sides of the Möbius.
You can begin and or end your reading of this “Möbius Strip” poem at any point you
like–I suggest beginning right after a block of white space.

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