James Langer

As SpongeBob SquarePants

If we know what’s good for us, we should first
Sketch it roughly and then fill in the details. I can’t
Change my habits. I inhabit them. Oh Patrick,
If only you really, really knew how many waves
Of lapping and overlapping vagaries it takes
To wear one’s actions down to this immaculate
Degree of stupidity and muscle memory, the squash and stretch,
To live inside it, accompanied by a soundtrack
Of slide guitar and relaxing ukulele, the chorus of which
Is as if someone ripped my arms off and beat me with them
To prove a point I invariably miss. Don’t laugh.
It keeps happening. I’ve learned if you get
On an elevator going down, you go down. It accrues
As second nature. The work vanishes into the work,
And we’re supposed to emerge within this wet machine of feeling
As the sudden embodiment of our final freedom? Sure,
No problem. Every man should know his end,
The craftsman his chaise lounge, the boiler maker
His boilerplate, but is this all there is for me –
The treadmill of this looping background? You hid
Under your rock, clung to the remote, refused to talk
Or look up to me as someone whose gratification
Confirmed your sway on the surroundings. That
Was the end, a punchline delivered late, as if
I’d mindlessly stepped into my own recurring brush with death
In a fiery explosion due to the carelessness of a friend.
Why not say what happened? Because hindsight’s
50-50. A story we tell ourselves, not physics, silly. See and see,
But don’t perceive. Though there are no failures, just results. Right?
We act within a view of ourselves whether it’s accurate or not,
And my day in, day out is when I’m most myself –
Totally oblivious, feeding my hard-wired hormonal jellyfish
Cans of forced laughter and happiness
Reverse engineered – someone you’re compelled
To root for, but if left alone with for five minutes….
See what I live with? As the good doctor says,
Biology trumps the ambiguous supplement. But I have thoughts
And thoughts about my thoughts, like a chase scene
Through a hall of doors. That’s just it. Every time I blame
This porous core system for squaring its vicious circle,
I anthropomorphize myself and the rest is contempt. I can’t do this.
Remember when we were young, the grotesque
Close-ups and blurred backdrops, when we shared a brain,
When all our cells seemed animated, and the storyboard was set?
Where was I? Oh, yes. You left. And it’s too bad I can’t be there
To enjoy my not being there, to be somewhere outside
The back of my mind, the illusion of life, the running gag.

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