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The Federal Bureau of Missed Connections

by Lucas Jorgensen

We were on the train. You were reading Metamorphoses. I turned to you, small-talked,
pointed to your book and asked, “Do you think he was a good king?” You shrugged.
Said, “I’m not done, but...cockroaches always inherit what humans abandon.” I thought
Brutus. Antony. Didn’t want to spoil the end. I asked, “Have you ever been to Rome?”
You said, “Yes. I love Texas.” I asked, “Is that where you’re headed?” You said, “I just
left.” I looked out the window. The tea-stained page spread out before me, blank and
vast. “A troublesome dream,” I mumbled. I was on the wrong train. You pointed to
your book and nodded. “Exactly how it began.”

This poem is a part of a project I've been working on: one-hundred prose poems, each of which corresponds to a different bureau, real or imagined. One of the things that I wanted to do was explore how different prose forms and musics could show up in a prose poem.

One day, I was browsing social media and a particularly ridiculous missed connections post came up on my feed. Something about a (I believe married) man and his child at a store bumping into a woman who was kind to him and deciding belatedly that he wanted to spend his life with her. These posts, which get their name from the Craigslist missed connections board, have a very specific structure: people describe the person they're looking for and themselves using the “you were this” “I was that” format. When I read the post about the man at the store, I realized this was a rhythmic structure I could give a poem, and the belated, strange tone these posts often take seemed perfect for my bureau poems.

Then I started trying to think about the different contexts which could be described as a missed connection: transit, speaking, literary meaning. Throughout the project there's a recurring thread of varied intertextuality, and Brutus is a recurring figure. And in the project I'm quite influenced by Russell Edson's prose poems, which often take the form of two people talking past each other such that they have two conversations that ultimately dovetail into one final shared point that transcends either's understanding. The last thing the speaker of the poem says is “A troublesome dream,” which is how Kafka's Metamorphosis opens. It wasn't the original phrasing I used–I think the original phrasing had the speaker asking if the train was going to crash—but when I reviewed the opening of Metamorphosis there was a serendipitous connection between the opening line of that text and how this poem ends (the “you” always responded more or less referring to the beginning of the book). I think that speaks to the overall intrigue of a missed connections board, in which people realize the significance of a moment only after it has passed and then reach back for it in a way that will almost certainly fail.

Lucas Jorgensen is a poet and educator from Cleveland, Ohio. He holds an MFA from New York University where he was a Goldwater Fellow. Currently, he is a PhD candidate at the University of North Texas. His work has appeared in or is forthcoming from POETRY, The Massachusetts Review, Pleiades, and others.