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Three Poems
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.