David Harris Ebenbach

Statement of Purpose

Dear Sirs, or possibly Cherished Madams
I want to reassure you that if I
were to get even the tiniest nail of my
claw-hands on
your salivation-inducing grant monies
I would be the kind of recipient you've always been searching for:
I would
wake up early
with a sense of great devotion to the people who
have made it all possible via
their great and terrible generosity
and who have led me out of Egypt
with a mighty hand
and I would not even take care of myself in my fervor for art, forgoing
and daytime television
and even counting the money you've given me
one dollar at a time
in order to
to the computer
and write things
in terms of not only content
but also length and formatting—
to make you proud
and I would report every penny of the cash
to the IRS
right after you did.
I wouldn't ever even have
carpal tunnel syndrome
lower back pains
bad eyes or
writer's block.
Those things are for losers.
You've made me a winner.
Will have, I mean. Will have.
So madams or potentially sirs
Not that I'm begging
but just maybe please think about the fact that without this grant
my promising career will be spent
writing statements of purpose
until I am the withered unworshipped god of statements of purpose
the one whose temple looks like a tooth in need of pulling or pulverization
and years from now I'm the man on the corner of 13th and Bainbridge,
unable to ask for a quarter
without first handing you
a piece of paper
which reads
This quarter
would come at the perfect juncture
in my writing career.

Yo Mama You Mama

Yo mama so ugly even Rice Krispies wont talk to her
and you used to spend ninety five minutes every day
in front of the mirror
worrying your face not to look like her.
Your make up, hairbrushes—
They were like a chisel and hammer
you used
to crack that woman off your face.
But you dont look like her—
you was just breaking your own face.
I used to sweep up the pieces when you left.

Yo mama so fat they had to baptize her at Sea World
and you steady read all those articles about genes and flab inheritance.
You could barely get your mouth open for toast,
strained soup through your teeth
so those chunks would drop off your lips
back into the bowl.
I never saw a living woman so skinny in my life—
You would only weigh yourself naked.

Yo mama so stupid she jumped out the window and fell up.
It was Thanksgiving, right?
You wouldnt eat most of her food,
and we thought she was just climbing onto the fire escape but then
she was gone,
like a gas spout.
And you refused even to turn around,
so busy picking out the lettuce without dressing on it.
I ran to the window
and tried at least to snatch some ankle,
a shoelace, but she was already too high,
damn near eclipsing the sun
(she so big)
Looking back at you
I watched the rotation of your sharp shoulder blades
carving circles into the back of your wooden chair,
those nimble moves with the fork
like a needle and thread
and I saw you in thirty years—
you looked like yo mama's body
minus everything.

Yo mama so poor she had to get on the bus to do a drive by shooting.
It was the 42 bus—
I saw her and her chewed on face
hanging over her floral print lap.
She tried to get the window open
but they were all childproof, in the back.
She cried rust all over the floor.
So I asked her how youd been
and she said you know how young people are,
too busy being kids to care where they headed.
I looked at this woman so old she got Moses signature in her high school yearbook,
just about to explode into dust in front of me
holding my hand tight but softer than yours ever was
and I said
you so very goddamn right.

David Harris Ebenbach, Philadelphia native, has returned to his home town after a decade-long tour of the Midwest. When not writing, he works as a freelance editor and teaches psychology at La Salle University, having earned his PhD in psychology from the University of Wisconsin and his MFA in writing from Vermont College. David's short fiction has been published or is forthcoming in numerous literary magazines, including the Denver Quarterly, The Beloit Fiction Journal, Midstream, and the Crescent Review, and his poetry will be appearing in an upcoming issue of The Red River Review.