5 Poems by Ben Pelhan


when you land in Johannesburg

what day is it? today or yesterday and tomorrow a man with a sign with your name on it waits just beyond the gate and he has a car and thank goodness because everyone here is black and might want to rob you or white and might want to rob you. also coloured, indian, and shades of gender too and there’s a boulevard for that when you land in Johannesburg. the flight was long when you land in Johannesburg.

you go to a museum where you learn about Johannesburg before it was today’s Johannesburg. you might say you learn about yesterday’s Johannesburg when you land in Johannesburg. you eat a steak and one dollar is like seven dollars but things cost more dollars but not seven more dollars and you take a cab to where you rent a car and you start your car in third gear and it’s a German car and your gps is losing its shit and everything is named for the same Mandela when you land in Johannesburg.

you need your passport and you need to remember that some things never change and you go to an art gallery where everything is affordable. you don’t buy anything even if you want to even though you know you won’t be passing by this way again and your credit cards get canceled when you land in Johannesburg so you have to borrow a phone. you should have called your credit cards yesterday when you land in Johannesburg and all the streets had different names yesterday when you land in Johannesburg and everyone is trying to put yesterday behind them and there’s a boulevard for that when you land in Johannesburg. tomorrow is always a day away and it just isn’t quite different enough when you land in Johannesburg. maybe try a smaller town.

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when you land in Baton Rouge

when you land in Baton Rouge you are always flying coach. maybe you got a free meal, but you are still flying coach. there’s also the guard who guards the cars against the cars when you land in Baton Rouge. he mistrusts false starts and idle hands and won’t let you linger. his eyes make worries. his worries make a song. sung by anyone who didn’t quite make it to New Orleans when you land in Baton Rouge. two six strings mingle up like Mississippi things when you land in Baton Rouge. like a river of mud floods a valley to save Baton Rouge when you land in Baton Rouge. the high notes hold the levees up and anyone who didn’t quite make it to New Orleans got a sign and a paper cup and the music ain’t free when you land in Baton Rouge.

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layover

sometimes feeding yourself
is the hardest part of the day. sometimes
feeding yourself and knowing what
to do with yourself is the hardest part of the day. sometimes
feeding yourself and knowing what to do with yourself
and getting into and out of chair situations
is the hardest part of the day.
chair situations include chairs,
couches, loveseats, futons, benches,
sometimes the arms of benches, futons, loveseats, couches,
and sometimes beds, and sometimes people.
sometimes people make better chair situations
than notimes people. the best chair situations
are always people but there is no such thing
as an always person so nearlyalways people
make the best chair situations except
only as far as people make good chair situations.
a chair is usually the best chair situation.

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when you land in San Diego

the movie. business is booming. you
are booming. your Holly.
is a tree. and your Wood.
is your bond. the weather.
couldn’t be better. so get yourself off.
the plane already. get off. so much.
sunshine. shadows hide.
in never land drawers. you squint.
nobody can’t be bothered. forgetting.
what a dark thing looks like.
talk about black face. you talk.
about coffee. a little bit. you beach.
like whales. whales are so big.
when you land in San Diego.
like also the Zoo. is big. so big.
you don’t even talk. about it.
you. and your together person.
will have to break up.
soon. because whales
are so big. belong
in a sea. maybe large
rivers. not in a zoo.
not in an airplane.
say hello. to your first
class whale. forget.
you ever came.

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when you land in Denver

when you land in Denver your lips are chapped before you collect your bags. If you didn’t check a bag then they were already chapped. when you land in Denver you ask where is Denver and no one can point it out to you, nor will they.

when you land in Denver there are the Rocky Mountains looking like a beer commercial but instead of being funny it is just a pile of snow melting for 53 minutes and instead of women wearing very little clothing a bottle explodes in the 54th minute, and this is the Superbowl halftime show. instead of playing the second half the players nap in one long row from end zone to end zone. every so often, the coaches look up from their magazines to check on the players and rub their rippling backs.

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Ben Pelhan is a Pittsburghist living in New Orleans. He makes poems, videos, screenplays, and combinations of poems, videos, and screenplays. You can find his work on the YouTube as well as in OH NO, Smoking Glue Gun, and others. He likes most rivers, most movies, and most of the people he knows.