Ode to Doubt
Muscle of boa, you turn
smooth as cognac stilled
fifty years in the throat.
You muffle hard outlines
under your skirts,
offer a grey handkerchief
to each certainty.
Behind the civility of veils—
what manners! You understand
how vulgar clarity can be.
At your discretion,
the lampshade’s tassels.
Yours, the axe swung wide.
You own the dog afloat
on the ocean, the blurred print
on the dog’s sodden collar.
You shake the hand
that finds a cold canary,
burning lung that must inhale.
Smudge-mouthed last child
left in the parking lot.
Dead horse, middle fork,
gloved hands in hair.
The backyard hammock cradles mist
and falling leaves that settle into the swaying mesh.
Down the street, the frat boys are building a float,
all shout and hustle, and one last wasp
dies on the lawn, invites me
to step down barefoot. I’ll walk
to the vending machine on the corner, where,
for your quarters, you might be offered one or two
of anything—guaranteed to be cold and fizzy,
but rarely what you thought you’d get. Maybe God
is not so much a clock winder
as a vending machine, dispensing bounty
without regard for brand, deaf to requests.
It hums and gurgles to itself
in the darkness, choosing for us.
We Lie Down at Last
The best eyes come from Germany;
someone curses gently in that tongue
as he breathes fire into focus,
a glass facsimile of sight
for those devoted taxidermists
who value the distinction
between antelope and oryx,
who strive to preserve
a still version
of each creature’s variation on the vertical,
every aspiration to God’s altitude,
by angling the eyes just so.
Where does the antelope stare
when the hunter brings it down?
The hunter who longs
to become what’s solid in the liquid grass,
who kneels beside it
to measure fur’s fading pleasure
with a flat palm. The pleasure
when the gaze blinks out,
as all joy journeys in dream.
Dusk, leaning over
the draw of your breath
as the day’s flutes lull to sleep,
like the men who kneel in the meadow,
I am waiting for some warning
of the knowledge stillness brings,
to feel the instant
between the shiver
of flesh under the hand
and the hush that follows,
to follow the long arc of the hush itself,
its blind, certain trajectory.
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