The Scars of Utopia by Jeffrey McDaniel

My friend told me today that utopia doesn’t exist for people like us. Because we have too many wounds, because our hurt spans a universe. I gave him this poem.

The Scars of Utopia
Jeffrey McDaniel

If you keep taking stabs at utopia
sooner or later there will be scars.

Suppose there was a thermometer able to measure
contentment. Would you slide it under

your tongue and risk being told you were on par
with a thirteenth century farmer who lost

all his teeth in a game of hide and seek? Would you
be tempted to abandon your portable conscience,

the remote control that lets you choose who you are
for every occasion? I wish we cared more

about how we sounded than how we looked.
Instead of primping before mirrors each morning,

we’d huddle in echo chambers, practicing our scales.
As a kid, I thought the local amputee was dying in
pieces,

that his left arm was leaning against a tree in heaven,
waiting for the rest of him to arrive, as if God

was dismantling him like a jigsaw puzzle, but now
I understand we’re all missing something. I wish

there were Band Aids for what you don’t know, whisky
breath mints for sober people to fit in at wild parties.

There ought to be a Smithsonian for misfits,
where an insomniac’s clammy pillow hangs over

a narcoleptic’s drool cup, the teeth of an anorexic
displayed like a white picket fence designed

to keep food from trespassing. I wish the White House
was made out of mood ring rock, reflecting

the health of the nation. And an atheist hour
at every church, and needle exchange programs,

and haystack exchange programs too, and emotional
baggage thrift stores, a Mount Rushmore for assassins.

I’m sick of strip malls and billboards. I dream
of a road lit by people who set themselves on fire,

no asphalt, no rest stops, just a bunch of dead grass
with footprints so deep, like a track meet in wet cement.

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