Four-Minute Poem for Mal’s Wedding
By Tao Lin - Dec 9, 2016
I feel anxious writing a poem to be read at a wedding
because I don’t want to disappoint.
My poetry usually isn’t appropriate for weddings, I think.
My poetry is usually troubling and desperate and bleak.
I feel less anxious since I won’t be at the wedding because I’m in Taiwan right now
but I don’t want to disappoint Mal
so I still feel a little anxious about this poem.
Mal is the only person I met in college that I still talk to
except for a writing professor named Brian Morton.
I’ve written two poetry collections and my first poetry collection is arguably at least half about Mal.
Mal told me there would be empanadas at the wedding.
Something Mal and I did in college was we printed pieces of paper that said “fuck starbucks” on them in font so big that it took two pieces of computer paper to fit both words. We taped these pieces of paper to the outside of an NYU building. You can see a photo of this on Mal’s Facebook.
In October I emailed Mal saying I had three lines so far for the poem for her wedding. I asked her if she had thought of anything she wanted in the poem. I had already asked her two or three times before.
Mal responded “i guess i want it to just like, feel good or be funny or emotional or all of those in one”. In the same email Mal wrote “unrelated: i think one of my neighbors is going to shitbeat my other neighbor over a hand cart that has been left in the apartment hallway”.
I responded “shitbeat, is that a saying or is it slang that means like to beat someone really hard”.
Mal responded that shitbeat meant to beat the shit out of and that she guessed it was slang.
I rarely write poetry anymore and I think I forgot how to, which explains why this poem sounds like this.
In an earlier draft of this poem, at this point, to end the poem, I listed some of Mal’s positive attributes. But on November 21st I deleted the list and instead thought that I would strongly encourage everyone to discuss both Mal and Chris’ positive attributes at some point tonight amongst yourselves, in groups or in pairs, for at least a few minutes.
I feel glad I thought of that idea, because I was kind of worried about this poem before I thought of it. I’ll repeat the idea one more time and then this poem will be over. Thank you for listening. Before repeating the idea one more time, I feel like thanking Michelle for reading this poem. Thank you, Michelle, for reading this poem. Okay, now the last line of this poem:
I encourage everyone to discuss both Mal and Chris’ positive attributes at some point tonight amongst yourselves, in groups or in pairs, for at least a few minutes.
Tao Lin is the author of eight books. His next two books are a nonfiction book titled Beyond Existentialism and a novel titled Leave Society, both forthcoming from Vintage.