Backchannel Norms

1 February 2017

She’s simply not
interested in the
correlation between
my mental health &
a good dose of
Keeping Up with
the Kardashians;
nor the poetry of
Sam Riviere; nor
the ballsports of
many a variety

Justin, a linguist would say,
violates backchannel norms.
He withholds those subtle signs—
mmm-hmm, right, yeah—quick
head-nods—that indicate an
engaged listener, & encourage
the speaker to continue.
He makes eye contact
like a person who has been
told that eye contact is very,
very important

Kafka once wrote,
I tell her, I solve
problems by letting
them devour me.
Yeah, she replies,
but I don’t think
he meant that
as advice

He lives in a hotel now. His monkey
was recently confiscated in Germany

One way to solve
these problems,
she tells me,
is to not write
this poem at all.
I say, Stop making
this about you

He takes Adderall to help him
concentrate, because his sleep
is too restless to make endorphins.
But he hopes to cut it out soon,
and replace it with something more
natural – he’s flying to New York
tomorrow to see the specialist

I’m sorry, I
tell her later,
sorrier than
I can say
in such a
tiny chat box

Today is Justin’s first day off
Adderall. He has the arcade
closed so he can shoot hoops
with the journalist who’s inter-
viewing him for GQ; he has the
cineplex closed so he can
take you to the movies

I’m working
on a poem,
I tell her, that
destabilises
contemporary
verse – but
not much.
I mean, it’s not
doing anything
interesting
with the line,
meter, or voice;
it ignores the
entire history
of the lyric as
well as Charles
Bernstein; it’s
not conceptual,
or if it is does
not realise; it’s
neither intimate
nor alienating
enough, it’s
not concerned
with troubling
that binary,
only itself;
it’s exceedingly
long and boring;
but not quite
elating in it
terribleness.
It simulates
the feeling of
disappointment
without delivering

He plays the journalist a new song
he is working on called ‘Insecurities’;
he asks her if she likes it. She does.
The hook, Oh, oh… oh, oh…
fix all of your insecurities

rattles round in her head for days

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