CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
We need new ways of living
without resorting to crocodiles
in wading pools. We need a cage
for the trashcan, plastic ficus
nailed to the wall, and a tortoise
whose shell is set with rhinestones:
an ottoman pacing the floor.
We'll have to tread lightly in case
the furniture bites, getting used
to the hallways. We need an antique
suit of armor to remind us
that for every body there may be
a hidden body: the arms
could squeak into motion
leaking softness like a pudding.
Every so often we must pull
a moist cloth over the drops to keep
our precious from rust, recalling
that some messages are fine sediments
piling at the bottom of our lungs until,
compressed, they catch the sharp
edges of the ribcage and produce
a nearly imperceptible pain.
Our Hero Descants
To ward off bees and better mediate
a languorous public with the cushions indoors,
we painted the porch ceiling blue.
Transitions are simpler with these small versions
of the new thing: a secretary takes you to the boss,
headlines pull us to an article, previews prime desire
for all movies before we get the one: a menu comes—
is this too edible? Appetizers will be preceded
by gimlets and salted nuts in the parlor.
We must be children before we can be fully grown:
if it passes too quickly, set your clock fast:
find your umbrella, pack a train case, and linger
in that golden armchair before taking your difficult leave
Astronauts try weightlessness in special chambers
near Houston. A group of citizens rehearsed evacuation
for the rest: cars circled the roundabout like a corps
before shooting onto streets. A conversation may
become a canon if, at even intervals, the waitress
sets stuffed artichokes before ladies having lunch
to compose high-pitched expressions of delight.
The opening band may steal the headliner's show.
When cooking with your beloved, request
a seven-minute warning so that steak and succotash
emerge ready for each other, warm and rare.
An empty magazine page and marble entry hall
greet us with the same decadent yawns.
Streetlamps predict the coming of day,
but will it ever look so damp and finely grained?
Engagement rings bind courtship to a wedding;
an overture brings the house to attention,
then the curtain opens and they gasp: Thebes!
Pioneertown started as a movie set:
later, people filled out facades and moved in.
A cigarette started a brushfire, a drizzle
started a storm. Stretching her arms for a planet,
she mimed: I will die in my sleep.
We hope an airplane-shaped city breeds
preparedness, that pacing the floor
is mise-en-place for walking off, or walking back.
But There Can Be an Abiding
You're busy having big ideas
about the past when a cream pie
hits somebody's face and you guffaw.
Or some quaint lantern casts
phantasmagorias on the fog
and you think what carnival was like
in such colors. The same ones
you have now. Today's potholes,
relics of the weather, are still
today's potholes. But how to climb
back into it, when people walked
differently, so they don't look
like us but at us, and will say
Oh thank you for doing us justice,
for showing the others all about us—
here things you never noticed
will reach out to hold you,
to keep you from yourselves.