“Everybody’s Life is Appalling,” by David Wright


Everybody’s Life is Appalling

Which you can tell from the scent
        of sausage grease on my coat

and the soured breast milk
        on your shirt

and the baby’s fine, shiny crust
        of snot and cinnamon.

Excess pours from my flesh, seems
        to pool in your pores.

And, if the book you tried to get me to read
        proves true, we both need professional help:

prescription lotions, a body wash that smells
        like pea blossoms—or a hosing down in the yard.

So in my book the poem is a hose,
        and we line up to be cleansed.

But it is a fire hose, muscled thick, so many pounds
        per square inch it blasts us across the yard.

So you are soaked and angry, trying to dry
        out the pages of your book.

And though I landed in the hyacinths,
        I still smell of smoked meats.

And the baby, he sits upright on the lawn,
        coating himself in mud like it’s love.


David Wright’s poems have appeared in Ecotone, Image, Bluestem, and Poetry East, among others. He lives in Champaign, Illinois, and has taught in the English Department at the University of Illinois since 2006. In the fall, his new collection of poems, The Small Books of Bach, will be published by Wipf & Stock, and he will begin a new position teaching creative writing and literature at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois. You can find him online or follow him on Twitter.