ON A BIG, BIG SCALE, WHAT DOES IT AMOUNT TO?
On a big, big scale, what does it amount to, these words,
this cooing, grunting, shrieking, howling, moaning, laughing
in a zoo at night like caged animals trying to get out of themselves?
These academics who write like yoked oxen trying to convince themselves
they’re ground breaking tractors trying to get their seed in on time
by sowing the conceptual grime of their immaculate fingernails with salt.
English ox-eyed daisies about as wild as it gets. Dead, dead, dead,
they all go into tenure arguing over what someone else said
who never had the money to live as comfortably as they do
with another man’s dread. Maggots in the eyes of the corpus literati
delectating over the cadavers of the ghost dancers who lived
off the reservation, not like the sixth pressing of palms and grapes
at a wine and cheese party, so poetically politic they’re suspicious of cutlery
even as they lick the spines of books that have broken into visionary print
inspired by the works of hallucinogenic toads that jump like popcorn
on rainy roads at night, caught in the highbeams of mesmeric headlights.
not the meaning or the madness, what torrents of love and blood,
what zeniths of agony, what nadirs of beauty endured in transit,
all the Gibraltars of doubt they had to pass through like kidney stones
through the pillars of Hercules. What was worshipped here
in these abandoned temples, these shrines and niches, altars to the heart
that was torn out of them like sacrificial judas-goats in the name
of terrors that raked their flesh with the claws of the moon,
extasis in death, life in the urns of their self-immolations like flowers
that bloom in fire once every seven thousand years, and the tiger
not betrayed by preying villagers who couldn’t kill it eye to eye.
Among the bones and broken pillars of another man’s devotion,
what are these nasty wrens and sparrows twittering about?
A writer dies and there’s an eclipse of black mold and mildew
that grows over his life as his body ripens in the earth
like an empty medicine bag denuded of the vital organs and totems
he lived by like hope against hope he hadn’t wasted his life
chanting slogans at the moon to propitiate its mutability.
Do ut des. I give so you give. Do ut abeas. I give so you go away.
Parrots of a false dawn, swinging on the faculty rungs of an aviary.
Semini sectores of editors trying to get laid like scalpels and footnotes
at the bottom of a page of mediocre notoriety radical
as the taste of radishes for six packs and cleavage. Rhinoplasty
to amputate the smell of shit out of their noses as they broach the truth
of what a poet has to live through to sing like a hermit thrush
in a snakepit of plastic surgeons under the knives and toxic anaesthetics
of their fangs and ossifying glances assessing the chances
of anyone making it through creative writing school without turning to stone.
Slim to none. The Great Barrier Reef of English Literature, dead polyps
on your larnyx, tiger mussels in the Great Lakes, semi-quavers
with their tails cut off like three blind mice playing music on the effluvial gates
of our fecal waste like Aeolian harps, I tell you, Aeolian harps
with iron staves like the baleen of expurgating blue whales
throwing up the krill they couldn’t keep down that a lecture will later distill
into the cloaking devices of perfumes that would put even Ibn Attar’s name to shame
with the stink of enlightening lies. The mythic deflation of generative stars
into planetariums of flashlights that can see about as far into the dark as flatworms.
The Beth Luis Nion Druidic tree alphabets conveniently repackaged as toothpicks
by chainsaws trying to get at the truth of the heartwood of old growth forests.
Chainsaws for the timber. Bush hogs for the underbrush.
How to make a vocational career choice out of a noble calling,
by learning to bite your tongue in the presence of a padded bibliography
stuffing a pillow of dipiliated flightfeathers like down in the mouth of the muse.
Who plucked your eagles in the forest of Teutoburg? Who crushed
the cosmic eggs of your nesting crows on offshore islands
to keep them from squabbling with the morning robins outside your window
while you were trying to sleep like a sabbatical from yourself?
Sa Bat, the evil eye of the Sumerian full moon when women bled
in isolation so we could have holydays that still don’t ring true,
and football weekends and hunting trips out in the woods
among the critical roadkill as the goats dropped their kids
to be cooked in their mother’s milk. You lay flying carpets
down in the library to cut back on the noise of life while you focus
on articulating your Latinate abstractions like a seance writing
a treatise on the history of silence in all of Shakespeare’s plays,
and six of Basho’s haiku. Que sais-je? What would you say
did your Catullus walk that way? Emperor penquins
giving singing lessons to skylarks like asmatographers with croup.
Poultry and shards of pottery with gold fillings like broken
Chanoyu teacups you’re trying to pour the ocean in one
shore-hugging tidal pool at a time like a waterclock of bottled water
without ever having gone sailing for yourself in
a savagely indignant Pacific storm because you’ve
always been the stalwart lighthouse of the norm
not the lifeboat that gets overturned in the dark night of your soul
like an oilslick of sharks with sundials and guitar picks for fins.
Cockadoodle do, my Chanticler, barnyard birds afraid of the fox,
the fisher, the wolf, the hawk, the staple-toothed serpent
on the paper trail of your peregrinating ovulations
trying to keep the rain out of your cathedral
like Brunelleschi’s Florentian dome or the polar ice caps
of the Medicean moons of Jupiter with its third eye open
like a methane hurricane rose window into Renaissance banking traditions.
Money-lenders in the temples. Banci, benches outside
the time locks on the vaults of your prodigious erudition.
Spring ahead, fall back, on your daylight savings plan as you must
like interest on the eternity of other mens’ afterlives
pressed like wildflowers in the starfields between the pages
of the encomiums of your last words like poppies between
the gravestones of funereal anthologies that taste like round-up
to the crab grass and dandelions spread like starmaps across your lawn
or the lime you throw like moonlight after they’re irrevocably dead
on the thirty-seven and thirty-nine year old bodies
of Mozart and Van Gogh thrown into a pauper’s black hole
or if that doesn’t work for you as an oxymoronic objective correlative
stop excising flesh and blood, heartbreak, and humanity
in the surgical theatre of your pathological criticism of the dead
like an authoritatively authorless first edition of the absurd
by rephrasing your experiment with poetry into the experience
of John Clare, Or Christopher Smart beatifying his cat in Bedlam,
Osip Mandlestam on his way to the gulag, Mayakovsky after midnight,
Sylvia Plath turning the gas on because Daddy you Nazi you will not do,
John Keats coughing up blood under a hawthorn tree in a mailman’s backyard
like the tongues of nightingales, Rimbaud running guns in Ethiopia,
Villon, the priest killer, mouthing his testaments to the prison walls
as he’s waiting to be hung. Ever take a dagger in the eye like
Christopher Marlowe in Deptford at the hand of Walsingham’s MI5,
be summoned like Hafiz before the Mongol vizier of Samarkand
for trading that and all the gold of India for the mole on a slave girl’s cheek,
or Raleigh in the tower after getting back with no gold for the king
from the Amazon, telling his son to give them all the lie
before he was decapitated like an acephalic iamb by the axe of James the First,
and maybe worse, Emily Dickinson suffering the lugubrious death
of lightning buzzing around like a housefly among the patriarchs of Amherst?