Donald Platt

Streak, Exit Survey and Against All Endings
January 24, 2024 Platt Donald


A jackknifed semi full
of dried feed corn has spilled its whole cargo over the eastbound lane
of State Route 231.


Driving the other way, I find myself humming along with Mitzi Gaynor
cartwheeling in South Pacific,
“I’m as corny as Kansas in August .  . .” Across the meridian, the highway


has become golden
dunes of pebbly sand that men in green vests with diagonal, silver
reflective stripes


shovel toward a white truck’s black, swaying, elephant-trunk-like
proboscis sucking all
that bounty up. I hear Gaynor keep singing, “I’m as normal as blueberry pie . . .


I’m in love,
I’m in love with a wonderful guy.” That ecstatic show tune makes me
remember all


those gangly guys I had a half-unconscious crush on, with long
or short cocks and hairy balls,
doing the hundred-yard dash naked across the lacrosse field at halftime


in 1974, April of my junior
year in high school. The streaker craze. Vietnam and Watergate.
I was humming, “I’m as horny


as bucks in the springtime . . .” At the Oscars that spring, a man with long
brown hair and bushy
mustache streaked across the stage behind actor David Niven,


who was introducing
Elizabeth Taylor to open the envelope for Best Picture.
As he was saying,


“A very important contributor to world entertainment . . . ,” the streaker
jogged out from the wings,
grinning and flashing a peace sign. The agile film editor,


who had thirty seconds
of delay time on the live broadcast, managed to show only the streaker’s
slim torso, no genitals


except for the initial split second where you can still catch a fleeting
glimpse on YouTube
of his thick, dark pubic hair. Niven fidgeted with his black bow tie,


shrugged, couldn’t help
laughing with the audience. He interlaced his fingers—“Well, ladies
and gentlemen, that


was almost bound to happen. But isn’t it fascinating . . .” The audience,
which had momentarily
quieted, began tittering again. Niven pulled at his left earlobe,


his famous, impromptu line—“Fascinating to think that probably
the only laugh


that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing
his shortcomings.”
The crowd exploded, started clapping. Niven smiled


drily in the English
manner. “Now, if I might continue with the introduction . . .”
and Elizabeth Taylor


swept in, making her grand entrance, tanned, in a low-cut yellow gown,
gardenias in her hair.
Her earrings, drooping loops of diamonds. She began, “That’s a pretty


hard act to follow . . .”
Living is a pretty hard act to follow. We are naked men and women,
exposing our shortcomings,


running for three seconds of fame across a stage. His name was
Robert Opel.
He became a gay rights activist and gallery owner in San Francisco.


A year after Nixon
resigned, he campaigned for President “on a platform of complete


At his first press conference, he naturally appeared naked and said,
“I’ve got nothing
to hide.” His campaign slogan was Not Just Another


Crooked Dick.
He was shot and killed in an attempted robbery by two men
strung out on speed.


As Gaynor sings it, they were “high as a flag on the Fourth of July.”
Our lives are corny.
So much spilled grain. A single golden streak across a highway.



Exit Survey


If you are as lucky as I’ve been, you’ll wake up on a sunny morning in January in the middle of your
sixty-fifth year on earth, open your email, and discover a questionnaire has appeared there
overnight from God

The return address is, all lowercase
You think that it must be a practical joke




You read through the email and find that God has all the mannerisms of a corporate public relations
specialist from human resources

God says that he is mindful of how busy you are and how hard you’ve been working for the
greater good of the universe and how proud he is of you and all that you have accomplished
during your lifetime


He wonders whether you might fill out a questionnaire for him as you near retirement




He would like to get your view of the experience that you’ve had on earth


It would help him better administrate the universe

He is sending you a link to a Qualtrics survey




Please rank the following six life events from one to six, one being the event that you most prefer
and six being the event that you like least


 •  Your brother dying after puking two liters of blood from his ulcerated stomach
 •  Breaking your right humerus in three places while trying to relearn how to ice-skate
 •  Your mother dying a short, fast death from lung cancer
 •  Separating your clavicle from your scapula in a bad bicycle accident
 •  Getting divorced from a woman you once loved after a marriage of 32 years
 •  Your father dying a long, lingering death from Alzheimer’s




Please mark true or false:


God is a benevolent dictator who stands at the corner of Main St. and 4th Ave. and hands out
lollipops of all colors to people with sweet tooths who can choose whatever color they want

God is someone to whom you can turn when the heater core of your car’s heating system fails in the
middle of winter and you need to locate an honest auto mechanic who can fix it

God is the seesaw on which a small child and a large child seesaw all afternoon, and yet it is the large
child who gets stuck way up in the sky and whom the small child won’t let come down to the
ground but taunts, yelling, “Why are you so large?”


God doesn’t give a shit whether you prefer pistachios over pineapples or vice versa

God is a one-eyed, cigar-chomping, white dude with a three-day growth of gray stubble like iron

God is the smooth-tongued, sniveling bureaucrat who sent you this weird questionnaire that
bemuses you and makes you smile even as you cry out in pain

God’s face has eroded like an arroyo in the wet season

God doesn’t care whether you answer this questionnaire or not

Whether you answer this questionnaire or not will not affect God’s higher plan for you and/or the

God knows best

God only sometimes knows best

God is a teenage girl with a monarch butterfly tattooed on her right shoulder

God is a newborn baby whimpering to itself in its sleep

God’s labored breathing is that of a newborn baby whimpering to itself in its restless sleep

God is sunlight on an oaken floor

God is a goddamn narcissist

God has panic attacks

God is the dawn sky tie-dyed crimson

God is the horizon at sunset powdered the faintest pink with the softest of Japanese makeup

God is a box that must be opened by pulling the tear strip or not at all




After having lived 75% of your life, you feel like:


A) a vase of wilted red roses that someone will behead eventually to make potpourri

B) a blue helium balloon from a child’s birthday party, which the birthday boy has accidentally released into
a cloudless sky and is now staring up at, watching it disappear, blue on blue

C) the circle of dirt that a dog has worn into the green grass of a suburban front yard by running around a steel stake driven into the ground and to which is attached the chain in which it gets tangled and ends up howling all night

D) a hand-rolled blunt of medical marijuana whose sweet thick smoke a patient under hospice care inhales
deeply into her cancer-perforated lungs, making her sigh and smile as she remembers her first sloppy
teenage kisses behind an apple tree in her backyard with an awkward boy who had a cow lick

E) a prickly pear cactus blooming in a pot that is too small for it and not caring that its owner forgets to water it


____ Usually A, occasionally D


____ Sometimes B, but most often C


____ A, B, C, D, but never E


____ None of the above


____ Always E



Against All Endings


And this poem will go on
when you have closed the book.
It will keep coming into being and
keep being written and rewritten.
Long after you have read its last page
and shut off the bedside lamp.
Long after I am dead.
Long after you, patient and incredulous reader,
have fallen asleep,
and your breathing has slowed
to an almost imperceptible sigh.
Long after the wondrous beings
that people the book of the world
have gone to sleep.
And we will all wake again
in morning’s new book of dew,
which doesn’t end but keeps being written
by a hand that we cannot see
and in a language that we will never understand.
And we will keep repeating the great,
inscrutable, incurable language of our being.
We will shout or whisper it into the silence.
And the silence will not end.
The silence will hear us.
And the silence will keep listening
for the sound of these words
recited by heart by our many voices.
And the words will be
as timbrels hung from a tree
whose leaves are beginning
to leaf out into the first
yellow green of earliest spring.
And let those timbrels be struck by the many
hands of wind, rain, hail, and snow.
Different weathers will strike
from each timbrel
so different a sound.
Tune each timbrel to whatever
weather rages without
or within. Soft. Percussive.
Wisp-whispery. Steady.
Adjust the screws that hold the goat skin.
Stretch it taut or more loosely.
Let the steel bangles keep jangling
in all manner of weather.
We are each of us one word,
and the world goes on percussing us.
Let the world not end. Let it
begin again anew in the throats
of each of us here on this earth.
Let the sound of each of us travel
faster than the speed of sound
into the ears of any
who need most to hear
this which we have cried out
and will go on crying out.

Donald Platt’s ninth book, Tender Voyeur, has recently been accepted for publication by Grid Books. His eighth book, Swansdown, won the 2022 Off the Grid Poetry Prize. He is a recipient of two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1996 and 2011), of the Paumanok Poetry Award, and of the “Discovery”/The Nation Prize.  Currently, he is a full professor of English at Purdue University. In the last year, two of his poems have appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, as well as twenty-seven other poems in Alaska Quarterly Review, Colorado Review, Diode, The Wallace Stevens Journal, Third Coast, Cimarron Review, Seneca Review, Laurel Review, Florida Review, Fence, Tupelo Quarterly, Gulf Coast, Five Points, Southern Review, Iowa Review, Lana Turner, and Yale Review. Over the years, his poems have also appeared in The New Republic, Nation, American Poetry Review, Paris Review, Poetry, Kenyon Review, Georgia Review, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, Virginia Quarterly Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, AGNI, BOMB Magazine, Southwest Review, and Tin House, as well as in The Best American Poetry 2000, 2006, and 2015 and in The Pushcart Prize XXVII, XXIX, and XXXVI (the 2003, 2005, and 2012 editions).