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Epithalamium and Other Poems

        Because in the kitchen, it’s difficult to lie

        Because the yearbook photo shows long straight hair parted down the middle, Marcia Brady-

        Because in my son’s mind, he has only one dziadek & babcia & that blindspot diminishes me
          more each day

        the vanity of everything factual

        tea drinkers & their charges

        Because you’ve gotten me so pissed off that I’m crawling

        like a roadside forger of wounds

        the preferred hymns
        of insects

        of all the world’s cobblers

        Because yesterday dinner was a roadrunner, the wrong coat, a spark that bled repeatedly

        Because what’s a necessity for a dancer, for a puppet is merely a circumstance

        the end of all that being looked at

        not a rational attic or
        cybernetic bee

        Because traversal becomes fractal becomes lacy potato, which you made but rarely ate

        Because I don’t want to be put in the ground

        a reservoir for true forgiveness, inexhaustible

        residing in somebody else’s memories

        like trying to describe
        the entire architecture of a house

        by staring at one square tile on the floor

        Because siusius don’t have hands or eyes or a buzia or legs

        Because there are no statistics to support this feeling



        when that the shadow-flash stutters

        when that such a pulse of phosphorus could have had other evolutionary consequences

        the jellyfish journey
                                        so bright with defiance

        when that men bend heaven to their methods

        time its own kind of villain
        playing at molecules

        as if it could be used for bowling

        as if to retrieve that valuable down a dropped sink or stop
        the toilet tank sweating

                               goose the right hinge

        wearing a dead man’s ears
        the reminder of another person’s sleep

                               automated to a Jesuit tinge
        a stern ball shaped & cyclical

        when that we may not shipwreck in the meanwhile



It’s 2023 & you’re drinking Folgers,
                                                like your father

            who attacked pleasure

                        with an unscientific precision
            his mood its own weather system,
                                                nettles of implication

bathed in reptilian light                        or those indirect gifts

                        a mosquito-fucked Monday
                                    the tenuous alibi slurred
            brushing against sham

                        like some linear inevitability

                                    I guarantee you one thing

a proof of the Pythagorean theorem
doesn’t need to be a conversation

                        nor another clipping from the Sun-Times
tracking an engineer’s average annual salary

                                                Let’s mute the intrusion

            the BVDs an ever-present accomplice            
                                    to the untied robe, Old Style & smokes in hand

                        all so very un-ninja-like

                        flatulence a stealth prayer
bound into the dark tissues,                 seal-sung

                        whether arm, ankle, or thumb,
                                    all I bought was brokenness

the way chaos has a shape                    its own acoustic etiquette

                        or how still the Toyota was
            with its spidered windshield & open door

                                    emptied of everything

all the bedside chats at 3:00 a.m.                      or those when I feigned sleep
not to occur but survive

            the glare of stolen time
                                                            grotesque but sentient

                                    thighs crosshatched from failed skin grafts,
            a whiteboard & notebook for the odd jotting                         

                        voiceless in the end, an open wound
                                                                        for a neck

                                                            doesn’t make any difference



        Because the hand is not a conclusion, a physical yes

        or lesson in agreed contradiction

        ballerinas of doom,
        sister shapes

        mistaken for a spider in the snow

        to pulse reality

        Because there are times when a dog’s wheezing sounds like a boy crying

        reflexively beheading the world

        Because potatoes are an invasive species

        stains the material & method
        to reset a landscape

        Because paintings are not windows, funneled

        into space

        to hit the floor
        you have no choice
        but to believe in

        Because it’s really hard to know when you’re lucky and when you’re smart

        Because the loophole’s welcomed in the land of confiscatory taxes

        the ecstatic restraint
        tentative geometry

        locked into a scaffold reminiscent of switchboard wires

        a relay decades in the making



        Sometimes I host parties in here. 
        Sometimes guests attend. 
        I move a few plants to one side then. 

        To make room for the limbo contest.  
        [Production of a pole.
        Sometimes I lose.

        Sometimes I ask the guests if they would like to tango with me. 
        They don’t.

        You are strong in limbo. Your mother probably loves you.

        Sometimes I attempt to amuse my guests with witty banter. 
        I will say something like “Celery is the lettuce of the vegetable world” or
        “The only thing to be taken seriously is death.” 

        Sometimes they laugh.

        Sometimes I play cards with my guests.  
        Poker usually.
        The plants tell me what hands my guests have. 

        Sometimes I win. 
        Sometimes my guests have hands.

Mark Tardi is a writer and translator whose recent awards include a 2023 PEN/Heim Translation
Grant and a 2022 National Endowment for the Arts Translation fellowship. He is the author of
three books, most recently, The Circus of Trust (Dalkey Archive Press), and his translations of The
Squatters’ Gift
by Robert Rybicki (Dalkey Archive Press) and Faith in Strangers by Katarzyna Szaulińska
(Toad Press/Veliz Books) were published in 2021. Viscera: Eight Voices from Poland is forthcoming
from Litmus Press. He is on faculty at the University of Łódź.