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Type
Poetry

Report on Norman – after Vigan

After Mary Szybist

 

Dear Mr Peter,

Norman has sinned 1,830,666 times in his life so far. I notice the last three numbers too sinister.

He must frustrate the father once more if he truly aspires to be here.

The last time Norman attended a mass was Christmas Eve the previous year.

He cried a little in the middle of a song. Of course no confession made to his boyfriend.

Long ago Norman believed that soon enough Jesus would selflessly make him anew.

The Christ probably forgot about this. He never sent a memo though.

*

Norman’s favourite gospel was John’s. He presumed that Jesus dated

the evangelist. It’s not possible because Jesus is the Son of God.

Now Norman doubts Jesus wants to date anyone.

He assumes Jesus needs some space and time for himself.

*

Norman doesn’t contribute much to the continuity of Christian songs.

He LOVES early Mariah Carey though. He considers this his fair share.

*

Norman has a gay Muslim friend who ran to India and became

a Buddhist monk. That friend sent him a postcard with a yogi on it.

Occasionally Norman spends his evening staring at the grinning old man.

*

Norman thought visa application was like the book-publishing industry

and the US Embassy had first-rejection rights. A lady had said to him:

‘Sir, you’ve never been to nowhere.’

Norman was anxious about flying. He was afraid his plane might smash into God.

*

The first foreign COUNTRY Norman paid a visit to was the Philippines. This happened recently.

Norman thought it was a joke from Jesus to make him a devout Catholic.

He did go to the town’s cathedral on his first day there,

wondering if this would finally convince him.

He ate avocado ice cream on his WAY back to the hotel.

*

Whenever Norman hears the word ‘devout’ he thinks of the word ‘default’.

This depresses him.

He has struggled to improve his life every single day. He has told his boyfriend,

‘I promise you from now on I will improve my life every single day.’

And he has said to the mirror, ‘I promise you from now on

I will improve my life every single day.’

At least he spoke in the first person.

*

Norman has a degree in accounting.

He once wrote a story about heaven as an office.

His daily tasks were filing unanswered prayers

and sorting them alphabetically by the sender’s name.

He learned the workload for the letter ‘N’ is alarming.

He thought it was including the blackmail ones.

So on them:

NOBODY – NOBODY – NOBODY – NOBODY – NOBODY – NOBODY –

NOBODY – NOBODY – NOBODY – NOBODY – NOBODY – NOBODY –

NOBODY – NOBODY – NOBODY – NOBODY – NOBODY – NOBODY –

NOBODY – NOBODY – NOBODY – NOBODY – NOBODY – NOBODY –

NOBODY – NOBODY – NOBODY – NOBODY – NOBODY – NOBODY –

NOBODY – NOBODY – NOBODY – NOBODY – NOBODY – NOBODY –

*

Norman is wasting his life reading those whiny poems. He still sees them,

so typical of him, as liberating and consoling.

Often when Norman reads a book he thinks that the poet would understand him.

And then he just knows the poet’s mansion is beyond bus reach

or the poet is ALREADY dead.

There’s always the phrase ‘opulent sadness’ from a poem by Mary Szybist

hovering in Norman’s head.

*

Whenever those bad MEMORIES return, Norman takes a full minute

to contemplate if his sadness is opulent enough for a poem.

He never thinks so. But writes the poem anyway.

 

Why doesn’t he just choose to pray?

*

Poetry is the only literary form not reminding Norman of his father.

Several times Norman has tried to write a poem ‘My Father.’

He has never finished it.

Norman is a regular of Abandoning Poetry Workshop.

The class is so going nowhere because Norman is a son of man.

*

Norman now enjoys a late night of writing.

That fool – the world he’s capturing

is diminishing.

It’s always a new world already

every time he finishes his wordy poems.

It’s an improvement though. In the past he preferred sleeping

and dreaming of a baby-blue sky.

 

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

 

 

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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Norman Erikson Pasaribu is an Indonesian writer living in Bekasi. His book of poems Sergius Seeks Bacchus (trans. by Tiffany Tsao) is out through Giramondo. His poem in this issue is from his upcoming book of poems exploring queer displacement through a linguistic lens.

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