by Dylan Loring
[from the archive: these poems first appeared in print in Big Muddy 18.2]

Persona Non Grata

My wife died last July.
Except she didn’t.

It’s easier to wear black
than it is to speak truths.

That line made even me
sick.  I stole a mannequin

for the closed casket
to complete the joke,

parlayed the tragedy
into a promotion at work. 

Joking comes naturally
when the jokes don’t

have to be funny. 
I find my own persona

insufferable, a sell-out.
I pawn him off on

schmucks at the party. 
I wish he’d just OD

already. Or start up
a whacked-out cult

somewhere in rural Utah,
where he’d be run-of-the-mill

instead of milling around.
And of course,

he’s interrupting us now
to tell me

to tell you
that he owns a foam middle finger

and desperately wants you
to meet his parents.


Persona During and Before Persona

My persona is sleeping through Ingmar Bergman’s Persona,
audibly snoring and subconsciously scratching his junk,

making it hard to hear the film—my first mistake,
since he’s more the ‘movie’ type—so I survey

the near-barren kitchen, save for the kitchen sink
filled with dirtied pans and rotten potato slices,

rancid water residue from steamed broccoli.
He has thrown everything else into a poem somewhere,

probably in the neighbor’s bedroom.  The chocolate, I get,
but I’m not so sure about the steak knives and baking soda.  

I’m not going to look for the poem; I know what to expect:
reference to the neighbor’s XXL Coca-Cola pajama t-shirt,

the phrase “Then he entered her, blooming” written ironically,
likely repeated, hopefully not in ALL-CAPS.  My persona tends

to become jealous halfway through a sex poem, so I’m
betting he left the neighbors before they pulled out

the whipped cream and off-brand KY jelly, then he drank
a can-pyramid-quantity of Coors Light and fell asleep.


Persona Learns that ‘Personae’ is the Plural of ‘Persona’

Though not one for monogamy if his incognito
browser is any indication, my persona
remains staunchly monotheistic.  He prays

to the reflection in our mirror each morning,
unwilling to let me dress him up for Halloween.
He gets to do the stand-up set and choose

what we wear, and I get to shut the fuck up.
But his bossiness is bogus—he’s been unemployed
ever since he ascended the hierarchy of the local zoo

only to release the snakes and crocs from their cages.
But I guess the most rational voice is seldom the loudest.
I’m always drafting apology notes for him to sign. 

He’s always telling me that too many friends indicates a problem
and not enough enemies signals a lack of depth. 


According to the OED, ‘Anima’ is the Opposite of ‘Persona’

It’s much easier to make fun of something
when it has a name.  My persona eats opposition
with a Baja Blast for fourthmeal, watches WWE
as he online shops for steel ladders.  My anima

doesn’t know what a 401K is but plans to learn,
prompts the occasional turbulent prayer.
Lately my persona has taken to pointing out
that ‘anima’ rhymes with ‘enema’.  It’s a lot

like owning a pet that pees in the house.
I gulp eight pills a day to shut them both up.
My anima asks what he’s ever done to me.
Right or wrong, schools often also suspend

the kid who allows himself to get punched in the face.
My persona’s off planting hard drugs in that kid’s locker.

Dylan Loring is a poet from Des Moines, Iowa. He teaches composition and literature at the University of Wisconsin-EC-BC. Some of Dylan’s poems have appeared in Ninth Letter, The Laurel Review, Split Lip, New Ohio Review, and Forklift, Ohio