In the End, They Were Born on TV

Douglas Kearney

         i. good reality TV
a couple wanted to be -to-be and TV wants the couple-to-be
to be on TV. the people from TV believe we’d be good TV
because we had wanted to be -to-be and failed and now might.

to be good at TV make like TV isn’t. make like living in our living room
and the TV crew isn’t there and the boom isn’t there
saving the woman from TV’s voice that won’t be there
saying tell us about the miscarriage. in the teeming evening
and some dog barking at all we cannot hear.

         ii. would you be willing to be on TV?
people in their house on TV are ghosts haunting a house haunting houses.
pregnant women in their houses on TV are haunted houses haunting a house haunting houses.
our living room a set set for us ghosts to tell ghost stories on us.

would you be -to-be on TV?
to be the we we weren’t to be and the we we’re-to-be to be on TV.
the pregnant woman agrees to being a haunted house
haunting flickering houses. yes ok yeah yes.

         iii. forms
in the waiting room for the doctor to TV the pregnant woman’s insides
out on a little TV on TV. filling a form on TV is to flesh into words
on a sheet that fills up with you. yes yes and turn to the receptionist
only to turn back to a ghost waiting to be officially haunted yes.

a magazine riffles itself on TV; loud pages, a startled parrot
calls your name then alighting on magazines
and waddle the hall you -to-be and the TV crew that isn’t going to be there
on TV and the doctor and you are looking at her little TV on TV the doctor
says see? there they are. ghosts sound themselves out to flicker on the little TV.
there they go to the pregnant woman scared to be such good TV.

         iv. cut
to one-more-time-from-the-top yourself
is to ta-daaaaa breathing. the curtain drops, plush guillotine.
would you talk about the miscarriage one more time? ta-daaaaa

         v. all the little people out there
after she was a haunted house before we haunted us for TV then
the pregnant woman watched TV. vomit on her teeth like sequins.

our TV stayed pregnant with the people from TV’s TV show
pregnant with haunted houses wailing then smiling up into our living room.

it helps she said of the people from TV’s TV show so yes then to TV to help,
she said, the haunted houses in the living rooms we said yes to help
thousands of wailing houses.

         vi. only with some effort
the best ghosts trust they’re not dead. no
no the best ghosts don’t know how not to be alive.
like being good at TV.

inside the pregnant woman, the -to-be of the family-who-failed-
but-now-might-be-to-be were good TV.
but the we-who-failed butterfingered and stuttered,
held our hands like we just got them.

we’ve been trying so long we said we can’t believe it this is finally happening.

         vii. scheduled c-section: reality TV
and they’re born made of meats on TV!
the doctor voilas them from the woman’s red guts
into the little punch bowls.

the new mother says I want to see them my babies!

the doctor shoves the new mother’s guts back, express lane grocer.

the demure camera good TVs up two meat babies into wailing ghosts.

off, the new mother’s blood like spilled nail polish.

         viii. ghost story
did you know about dogs and ghosts? one barking at one’s nothing?

         ix. the miscarriage: exposition for reality TV
it helps to be on TV. we want to be good on TV. ok yes.
to help we want to be good TV. yeah yes.
please tell me about the miscarriage.

the woman from TV wants good TV and something specific that gets you right
in the tear to the eye to milk the pregnant woman’s breasts heavy with—.

good, we talk about the dead one on TV.

it was horrible, the blood was everywhere that morning a dog barks.
one-more-time-from-the-top. it was horrible, the blood was everywherrrrr
doggone dog goes on. on to take three and it was horriboom
in the boom goes the barking and bad TV! bad TV! we want to help
being good TV please tell me about the miscarriage
one more time it was

         x. after the c-section was more like
the doctor shoving the new mother’s guts in, jilted lover packing a duffel.

         xi. talking about the miscarriage: behind the scenes
please tell me about the miscarriage
please tell me about the miscarriage
please tell me about the miscarriage
please tell me about the miscarriage
the fifth take and it was horrible, that’s all.
they call them takes, again we’re robbed.

did it help watching a house fill with haunting every room
or help haunting the house? watch! here we are:
an expanding family of ghosts. we aren’t here but yes ok yeah yes.
did it help? and even now know yes they were born on TV
but before it was horrible wasn’t it must have been. please tell me
about the miscarriage for I don’t know how not to be telling
and the dog growls still and still and still

Poet/performer/librettist Douglas Kearney's third poetry collection, Patter (Red Hen Press, 2014) examines miscarriage, infertility, and parenthood. Cultural critic Greg Tate remarked that Kearney’s second book, National Poetry Series selection The Black Automaton (Fence Books, 2009), “flows from a consideration of urban speech, negro spontaneity and book learning.” He has received residencies/fellowships from Cave Canem, The Rauschenberg Foundation, and others. His work has appeared in a number of journals, including Poetry, nocturnesPleiades, Iowa Review, Boston Review, and Callaloo. Raised in Altadena, CA, he lives with his family in California's Santa Clarita Valley. He teaches at CalArts.