FOSSILS (A Poem in Voices)



When the cherry was a flower,
Then hadde it no stone.

                                                                                                     Anon.

                                                I

Trilobite Euripides, sarcophagus Shakespeare,
Gogol the archaeological digs of Leningrad—
dust of species dead to the last blood cell—
civilizations evolve to misspelled one word poems.

No sane man sings of anger, hears the dream voice
ringing the clapper of his consciousness
anymore; some things you just don’t do.  God daunts,
whatever shape he takes.  Less if he’s something you say.


II

“As for what they’ve done, they have done it.
Let it be their heads.  No one is immune.
I move my hand, like this, and block the sight
of fools who think they see their own eyeballs.”

“The buzzards came upon us—hands clapping
a thunderous beat; they squawked and coughed
shreds of meat and moldy grain, spraying us with filth.
We covered our candles but left the tables as they were.”

“Thus, I escape the painful, the mystery,
into a womb the forecaster says
will bear a child with signs of a new man.
Shave my head.  Dress me in orange.  Leave me homeless.”

“Not even the dead are free of being.
We feed like birds on the seed of all flesh and blood.
We stuff incense like snuff up our noses.  We dance
on the grave mounds beneath the pines in ecstasy.”


                                                III

I know only one good thing, said the Angel.  Understanding
is movement, and movement cannot end in variety.
My will is not obstinate in evil, said the Devil.  I know
everything and one thing, what you call the one good thing.

The bridegroom’s thinning pate wags,
loins stirred by eraser-nippled Aphrodite.
His free will dictated falsehoods by misinformed reason,
he shrivels at the thought of fucking Eve.


IV

“Tonight you may go to your wives.
God sees you’ve betrayed yourselves.  He pardons you.
Sleep with them, find out what awaits you.
White threads fray from black cloth at dawn.”

“Her left hand with tent peg, her right with mallet
struck and crushed the head.
She struck again and the peg entered the ground.
‘Come,’ she said, ‘I’ll show you the man you want.’”

“Oh, exquisite company, you’ve all taken a bride!
Nowhere a bachelor, everyone true and tried.
Look!  The earth gapes to drink the handsome revel!
Quick!  The priest escapes!  After the devil!”

“Wir, Vergeuder der Schmerzen a milk bottle
painted white we are too wise to sip from,
here in this vegetable garden of delight,
we tooth-picked avocado pits rooting in green glasses.”


V

Two rocks fight for a third rock, make progress—
a corner will fit a corner, that kind of strategy.
A man walking by takes advantage of the row
to put the rock in his mouth and cite the law.

Another humpback breaches the tumultuous birthplace,
lolls on his back in cataracts of blood and fire;
a flick of his tailfin upends the proud metropolis;
the bodies stack like cordwood on the ocean floor.


                                                VI

“The surgeon’s knife probed her entrails and withdrew,
leaving a jagged gash on her belly.
I see dark, suffering eyes, beautiful as eyes
of an antelope.  Oh, cruel wound, libidinous God!”

“Two boys in the front seat bob against the flashing
windshield, laughing obvious insults in rewinding
rhythms of thought forgotten and thought again,
laughing back at me, it is all laughing back at me.”

“I didn’t wince when Mother stitched the shirt
to my back.  I laughed when Father yanked it off.
I ate break I baked with flour from a bag of rats.
I bit my shield and my blade and my enemy’s face.”

“I cut them in two, as you’d cut apples for preserves.
Each face on half of each neck turned to the incision;
in contemplation, each man and woman was made more orderly.
I closed their skins around them like zipping coats.”

“Let us pass on to the lesson of the lesson.  Let us
follow the thread of the demonstration through
the apparently unquestionable facts.  The point of the incident
supports an enormous theoretical edifice.”

 “I shoot the boy in the neck some place try shoot
him twice with a .22.  I shoot the old man
two times, he had on blue P.J. light blue, he lade
on the wall as you go out the door with a .44.”


                                                VII

Exempla accelerating decay, rusting lugnuts, Bloom
and Sweeney sip absinthe-mournful toasts to thee,
epitome of art, the verities locked in their garages
(So priketh hem nature in hir corages.)

And poetry proliferates like cancer cells,
rock-hard burl on trunks of ageless redwoods.
The imperturbable trees speed every root westward
because the wind blows always from the sundown.

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