I've always loved prose poems and catalog poems. I've moved away from catalogs as a mode in the last couple of years, but I always get all tingly when I read a good one. So I thought I'd share one today. Here's Catherine Bowman's "No Sorry" from the 1997 Best American Poetry, edited by James Tate.
Do you have any scissors I could borrow? No, I’m sorry I don’t. What about a knife? Do you have any knives? A good paring knife would do or a simple butcher knife or maybe a cleaver? No, sorry all I have is this old bread knife my grandfather used to butter his bread with every morning. Well then, how about a hand drill or a hammer, a bike chain, or some barbed wire? You got any rusty razor-edged barbed wire? You got a chain saw? No sorry I don’t. Well then maybe you have some sticks? I’m sorry, I don’t have any sticks. How about some stones? No I don’t have any sticks or stones. Well how about a stone tied to a stick? You mean a club? Yeah a club. You got a club? No, sorry, I don’t have any clubs. What about some fighting picks, war axes, military forks, or tomahawks? No, sorry, I don’t have any kind of war fork, axe, or tomahawk. What about a morning star? A morning Star? Yeah, you know, those spiked ball and chains they sell for riot control. No, nothing like that. Sorry. Now, I know you said you don’t have a knife except for that dull old thing your grandfather used to butter his bread with every morning and he passed down to you but I thought maybe you just might have an Australian dagger with a quartz blade and a wood handle, or a bone dagger, or a Bowie, you know it doesn’t hurt to ask? O perhaps one of those lethal multipurpose stilettos? No, sorry. Or maybe you have a simple blow pipe? Or a complex airgun? No, I don’t have a simple blow pipe or a complex airgun. Well then maybe you have a jungle carbine, a Colt, a revolver, a Ruger, an axis bolt-action repeating rifle with telescopic sight for sniping, a sawed-off shotgun? Or better yet, a gas-operated self-loading fully automatic assault weapon? No, sorry I don’t. How about a hand grenade? No. How about a tank? No. Shrapnel? No. Napalm? No. Napalm 2? No, sorry I don’t. Let me ask you this. Do you have any inter-Continental ballistic missiles? Or submarine-Launched cruise missiles? Or Multiple independently targeted reentry missiles? Or terminally guided anti-tank shells or projectiles? Let me ask you this. Do you have any fission bombs or hydrogen bombs? Do you have any thermonuclear warheads? Got any electronic measures or electronic counter-measures or electronic counter-counter-measures? Got any biological weapons or germ warfare, preferably in aerosol form? Got any enhanced tactical neutron lasers emitting massive doses of whole-body gamma radiation? Wait a minute. Got any plutonium? Got any chemical agency, nerve agents, blister agents, you know, like mustard gas, any choking agents or incapacitating agents or toxin agents? Well I’m not sure. What do they look like? Liquid vapor powder colorless gas. Invisible. I’m not sure. What do they smell like? They smell like fruit, garlic, fish or soap, new-mown hay, apple blossoms, or like those little green peppers that your grandfather probably would tend to in his garden every morning after he buttered his bread with that old bread knife that he passed down to you.