Eloquence, the Cripple
Conviction is an engine, yes,
but idleness bubbles and babbles, too.
There was the day that seemed to need
to be addressed, just waiting, primed, a blank
page baiting relevance, and eloquence
the cripple chirping about apples
not yet ripe on their stems—sour, molded
even, patinaed with a development
that would not help or hinder them,
just a seasonal formality, as their variegated
reds and greens in apparent streaks
and subtle film rattled the branches in riot
to be acknowledged. So much addles
us from the nourishing details—the desire for
engagement with particulars that seem—
instead of being discovered—to discover us,
as the fruit fattens, and we are steeped
in awe, having fastened to the things
that carry us to, and nurture us with,
their apparent, exacting displacements.
Bal des Argents
How tempting, never having tempted fate,
to seek out otherness, to court danger,
a derangement to ridicule and right oneself,
as these men, the king among them, dressed up
as wild men for the queen’s masquerade.
They dance about, dressed in flammable fur
of linen soaked in pitch, to which they’ve stuck
frayed hemp and hair. They galumph and snort
as wild men must; the king, already mad,
lost to irony among his ladies
dressed up in various conical hats
and arabesques lining cleavage and cuffs.
And we, who should be quite impressed that they’re
from some significant place in history,
have come to see things metaphorically:
the king and his companions nearing flames—
one, who has masterminded the charade,
who’d forced peasants at sword point to bark
like dogs, will die a slow and agonizing death,
his mask seared to his flesh. Another, burning,
leaps into a vat of wine. The others
fizzle in their finale. While the king,
hopeless even to the mercy of moral,
is spared by fate or kismet or whomever
happens along at the moment we see
the woman beckon him beneath her skirt
to snuff his sparks within alluring dark.
As the premiere agent for the Anti-Misunderstanding Foundation,
I am the first to come ashore. The natives wade out to my skiff
and welcome me with orchid garlands and locust necklaces
then help me through the reeds that lead to sugarcane.
The way’s been paved by missionaries. Boys, the only soldiers,
pose provocatively with the entrails of their enemies tasseling
down their narrow chests. The public humiliations and decapitations
have been postponed as I’m paraded through the village center.
In the house of my host, finding few common words, we quickly begin
the exchange of images. “This is what my people fasten the bulk of their
anxieties upon,” I say. “Here is the word—hear it—enunciated when
one’s parents have reached a mid-life impasse. And this, before you,
is the anathematic item, when we mean vainglorious embellishment,
without soul. And here”—I hold up my party’s bronzed thorn—“is
ridicule, in its more positive usages.” Down the way the public
tortures resume. The reserved chief brings his tiny metal guitar
from its case of pounded tin. He plays percussively, jangling in-time
with the large drums they’ve brought around the fire.
I am an agent of immersion who must descend into each disputed territory
and fail, ultimately, by almost succeeding to crack the codes,
though willingness and persistence are coinage here.
The fire burns late. A green log sends smoke among the rattling cane.
Machetes in the dark swish and clank as each stalk is felled.
My cocoon, musty, roosts in stoppered light.