Table of |
A Couple of Posthumous Landscapes
Daily you sport a new skin
tougher than the old one. Rain
sluices off you like fish scales.
Insults, if anyone dared,
would crackle and die before
penetrating that Kevlar self.
While I dream of the tropics
dripping mangoes and breadfruit
you’re accumulating layers
of armor like a pine cone’s scales
So every day I measure myself
by the nearest, tallest pine
and cast my shadow against its.
I declare myself taller, taller,
and the wind in the pine-top
agrees in a language cats and dogs
if not people understand.
Then I spread my arms as wide
as creeping arthritis allows
and touch with one hand the cold
green Atlantic, and with the other
the Pacific blue of your childhood.
Meanwhile you conceal your skin
under the plainest possible clothes
and enter the only world large enough
to absorb your rage. The errands
of the day, like the labors
of Hercules, focus your strength
and affirm your thick new hide.
Despite my favorable height and width
my tropical dreams weaken me
more and more. Soon I’ll stand
only moments at a time, sinking
to my knees in drapes of blubber
so loose they could be parchment
stolen from the holiest graves.
Will you attest to my innocence
if an asteroid arrives to crush
the good and evil out of us?
Your skin would trampoline the smash,
but my tropics would flood and drown;
and when I next measured myself
against that pine an army
of ants would march through my shadow,
sparking reddish crystals
in the depths of their tiny tracks.
The electricians arrive with copper pipes and rolls of heavy gauge wire. They’re here to ground me. No more indecencies of spark and crackle of short circuits. No more unexpected shocks in the bathtub. No more self-ignited brush fires. They wrap me in woven metal strapping, then solder the wire and run it to the copper pipe, which they’ve driven ten feet into earth. Now I’m leashed to the world. Whatever energy the universe offers will filter safely through me. The electricians intend to bill my insurance company for their work, but even if they never get paid they’ve earned great satisfaction for this public service. Without doubt, my ungrounded condition had menaced the American middle class. Women shrieking in public places. Children bullying each other in playgrounds. Business people cheating at business. All that excess voltage now pours through me to extinguish in the bosom of the planet. Yes, it’s inconvenient to be tied to a pivot point, but I’m pleased to contribute to the common good. And besides, the occasional lightning stroke focuses me on our afterlife of cinders and ash, a reckoning to make us proud.
The Bruise of the Cosmos
Frost in flavors of stone. A brisk young woman squares herself in beige, as if hardy mums weren’t being hardy. The streets stick out their tongues and say AAAH. Parked cars leak dismal fluids. Their tires flatten so gradually no one cares. The brisk young woman plants herself at a table and unfolds a laptop. On the screen, the face of God. She erases it with a keystroke and a giggle. She wants to be alone with the universe. A cry from beyond sizzles in the ether, but the coffee shop crowd hears only the faintest yellow hum. The brisk young woman types so vigorously she sheds her clothes, and by the time she has finished a paragraph she’s as naked as a capstan. No one notices or cares. Such dedication to one’s work is common now, and pointed like a stick. She types and types, and after another paragraph her face blues with the bruise of the cosmos. No pain, only an aura of success. She posts on her web page an honest account of her life in a distant galaxy. The sparkle and crack of shorted neurons light entire cities. Such energy flatters everyone. She completes her work with an exclamation point. Now with a simple gesture she’s fully dressed again and closing her laptop, crushing a million egos left exposed.
Morning dark as an armpit.
Our favorite crimes recurred
as we slept, leaving residue
for someone else to scrape up.
Chisels and knives, pliers, tongs.
Always that metal on metal
gnash or clang. Always the pain
seated in some private place
where no one takes the trash out
or changes the blood-stained sheets.
Someone walking on the road
sports a beret, mocking us.
Someone else in the secrecy
of his man-cave loads and unloads
a pistol, places it to his head,
and imagines pulling the trigger.
This person doesn’t mock but
expects us to testify
when he renders the world abstract.
The morning brings too much news—
stalemate in the desert, drama
in the ballpark, highway deaths
in colors too livid to share.
We nod over breakfast, barely
speaking because so warped by sleep
we can’t quite disarticulate.
Chisels rasp into wood or stone.
Knives simper through breakfast meats.
Pliers twist a stubborn wingnut.
Tongs pluck toast from a toaster.
How do you feel about evolving
into a tool-using mammal?
We’ll discuss this when we’re awake
and the rain has finished rinsing
all incriminating evidence
from our secretly naked sky.