Linda Besner, Feel Happier in 9 Seconds

In her second book, the Canadian poet Linda Besner weaves throughout her funny, dark poems “found” language — like the headline of an article in Cosmopolitan, which became the name of the collection, “Feel Happier in Nine Seconds,” or text from a travel-ad campaign for Aruba, from which this poem takes its title. Here, she imagines a desultory job interview that seems to be taking place — figuratively or maybe not — underwater. Selected by Matthew Zapruder

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Your Happy Place May Be in Need of an Undersea Princess

A glass bowl of glazed fruit had occluded
this need. I shouldered through the seaweed

with my laminated cv. In the waiting room,
a gerbil paced an oxygen tank to calm us.

I don’t want to be a tree that falls asleep
with its leaves half off, I told Deb, the HR lady.

Her desk ribboned surfaceward from a tuft
of anemone. Deb took me through an exercise —

She said ‘caca d’oie’ and I said ‘war.’
She said ‘cuisse de nymphe effrayé’ and I said ‘peace.’

My whole twenties — my whole twenties, Deb —
were merry petunias in a window box

trying to look Byronic. Oooooo, it’s dark.
Oooooo, it’s windy. Deb, there was a time

when I could climb into my telephone voice
and zip it over my head. I was outlining

my experience when my first grey hair came in.
I cried, and Deb pulled it out for me.


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