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(1)Th e Crad le Place Thom as Lu x A MARI N ER B O STO N BOOK • / H O U GH TO N M I FFLI N N EW YO R K CO MP AN Y

(2) T h e Cr a d le Place

(3) Also b y Th o m a s Lu x The Land Sighted (chapbook) Mem ory's Handgrenade 1970 1972 The Glassblower's Breath 1976 Versions of Cam pana (chapbook: translations) Madrigal on the W ay Hom e (chapbook) Sunday 1977 1977 1979 Like a W ide Anvil from the Moon the Light (chapbook) Massachusetts (chapbook) 1981 Tarantulas on the Lifebuoy (chapbook) Half Prom ised Land 1983 1986 The Drowned River 1990 A Boat in the Forest (chapbook) 1992 Pecked to Death by Swans (chapbook) 1993 Split Horizon 1994 The Blind Swim m er: Selected Early Poem s, 19JO-19J5 New and Selected Poem s, 1975-1995 1997 Merry Bones (chapbook) 2001 The Street of Clocks 2001 1

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(5) First Ma r in e r Books ed it ion 2005 Cop yr igh t © 2004 by Th om as Lu x All righ ts reserved For in fo r m a t io n ab ou t perm ission t o reprod u ce selections fr om t h is book, writ e to Perm issions, H o u gh t o n M ifflin Com p an y, 215 Park Aven ue Sou t h , Ne w York, Ne w York 10003. Visit our W eb site: www.h ou gh t on m ifflin b ooks.com . Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Lu x, Th om as, date. Th e crad le place / Th om as Lu x p. cm . ISBN-13: 978-0-618-42830-4 ISBN-IO : 0-618-42830-5 ISBN-13: 978-0-618-61944-3 (p b k.) ISBN-IO : 0-618-61944-5 (p b k.) I. Tit le . PS3562.U87C73 2004 8 ll' .54 — dc22 2O O 30 6 7554 Book design by Melissa Lot fy Prin t ed in t h e Un it e d States o f Am er ica MP 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Man y of the poems in this book first appeared, sometimes in slightly different form , in the followin g magazines: Am erican Poetry Review: The Devil's Beef Tub; Debate Regarding the Perm issibility of Eating Merm aids; Burned Forests and Horses' Bones; Dry Bite; Can't Sleep the Clowns W ill Eat Me; Letter to W alt W hitm an from a Soldier He Nursed in Arm ory Square Hospital, W ashington, D.C., 1866; Can Tie Shoes But W on't; Goofer-Dust; Term inal Lake; Monkey Butter; Three Vials of Maggots; Render, Render; Portrait of X [III]; Rem ora. Atlan tic Mon t h ly: The Gletz (under the title The Diam ond Cutter). Canary River: W ith Maeterlinck's Great Book. 88: Guide for the Perpetually Perplexed. Field : Uncle Dung Beetle; Myope; To Help the Monkey Cross the River; Flies So Thick above the Corpses in the Rubble, the Soldiers Must Use Flam ethrowers to Pass Through. Five Points: Breakbone Fever. Greensboro Review: Rather. Gu lf Coast: Ten Years Hard Labor on a Guano Island; Scorpions Everywhere. Kenyon Review: The Magm a Cham ber. Lu m in a: The Ice W orm 's Life. MARGIE: From the High Ground; To Plow and Plant the Seashore. New Delt a Review: Dystopia. Passages Nort h : Reject W hat Confuses You. Pedestal: Thus, He Spoke His Quietus; National Im palem ent Statistics. Rialto ( UK) : The Chief Attendant of the Napkin; If One Can Be Seen. San Diego Reader: The Professor of Ants; 174517: Prim o Levi, an Elegy. W illo w Springs: Birds Nailed to Trees; Boatloads of Mum m ies; The Late Am bassadorial Light; Say You're Breathing. The Am erican Fancy Rat and Mouse Association was first published by Fameorshamepress as a lim it ed-edit ion broadside. Special thanks to Mary Corn ish , Ar ju n Shetty, and Gin ger Mu rch ison .

(6) for m y blood: Elinor, m y m other, Norm an, m y father, and Claudia, m y daughter

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(8) M o m came and wen t —an d came, and brough t no day. — B YR O N I want the old rage, the lash of prim ordial m ilk! —TH EO D O RE RO ETH KE

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(10) Con t en t s I Th e Late Am bassadorial Ligh t 3 Say You're Breat h in g 4 Dr y Bit e 5 Horse Bleed in g to Deat h at Fu ll Gallop 6 Debat e Regardin g t h e Perm issibilit y o f Eat in g Merm aid s 7 Th e Professor o f An t s 8 Tact ile 9 Ten Years H ar d Labor on a Gu an o Islan d Fam ily Ph ot o Ar o u n d Xm as Tree Rather 10 11 12 Portrait of X [III] 13 Th r ee Vials of Maggots Un cle D u n g Beetle T h e Gl e t z 14 15 16 Ca n Tie Shoes Bu t W o n 't 17 Th e Am er ican Fancy Rat an d Mou se Association To H e lp th e Mo n key Cross t h e River Th e Devil's Beef Tu b 19 20 Boatloads o f M u m m ie s 21 Th u s, H e Spoke H is Q u iet u s Th e Magn a Ch am b er 18 22 23 Birds Nailed to Trees 24 II Gu id e for t h e Perpetually Perplexed If O n e Ca n Be Seen 27 28 Th e Year t h e Locu st H a t h Eat en 29 ix

(11) Bu rn ed Forests an d Horses' Bones 30 Let t er t o W a lt W h it m a n from a Soldier H e Nu rsed i n Ar m or y Square H osp it al, W ash in gt on , D .C., 1866 Scorpion s Everywh ere Myop e 32 33 34 III To Plow an d Plan t t h e Seashore Am p h r ib r ach Dan ce Rem ora 38 39 Nat ion al Im p alem en t Statistics Asafetida 37 40 41 r745r7: Prim o Levi, an Elegy 42 Goofer-Dust 43 W i t h Maet erlin ck's Great Book Ter m in al Lake 44 45 Th e Ch ie f At t en d an t of t h e Na p k in 46 Th e Mo u n t ain s in t h e River on t h e W ay t o t h e Sea Reject W h a t Confuses You 48 49 Flies So T h i c k above t h e Corpses i n t h e Ru b b le, t h e Soldiers Mu st Use Flam et h rowers to Pass Th r o u gh Th e Ice W orm 's Life 51 52 Provincia Aurifera I W i l l Please, Said the Placebo H ospit alit y an d Revenge Fr om t h e H igh Gr o u n d Dystopia 53 54 55 56 Mon key Bu t t er Breakbon e Fever 57 58 Can 't Sleep t h e Clown s W i l l Eat M e Ren der, Ren der X 60 59 50

(12) T h e Cr a d le Place

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(14) I

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(16) Th e Late Am bassadorial Ligh t Ligh t reaches t h r ou gh a leaf an d t h at ligh t , d im in ish ed , passes t h r ou gh an ot h er leaf, an d an ot h er, d own to t h e lawn ben eat h . Gr een , green , t h e h igh grass shivers. W at er over a stone, an d bees, bees arou n d t h e flowers, deep-tiered beds of t h e m , yellows an d golds an d reds. Saw-blade ferns feather i n t h e breeze. An d , just as a cloud's corn er catches th e su n , a t in y glin t in t h e garden —t h e m ilk o f a broken stalk? A lion 's tooth ? O r m igh t t h at be t h e delicat e labia of an orch id? 3

(17) Say You're Breat h in g just as you do every day, in an d ou t , in an d ou t , an d in each breat h : one t ick of a shavin g from a bat's eyelash, an in visible sliver of a body m it e wh o lived near Caligula's sh in , d iam on d dust (we each in h ale a carat in a lifet im e), a speck o f scu rf from t h e Th i r d Dynasty (t h at of t h e abu n d an t im beciles), one sulfurous grain from th e smoke of a m ort ar r o u n d , a m ot e of m arrow from a bon e p okin g t h r ou gh a sh allow grave, a wh iff from a m u m m y grin d er caugh t i n a Sahara win d , m ost of t h e Sahara itself, in h aled i n Gr een lan d , sweat d ried t o crystal on you r father's lip an d lift ed t o t h e sky before you were b orn —a ll, a ll, a galaxy of fragments floating arou n d you every day, in h aled every day, happy to rest i n your lun gs u n t il th ey are dust again an d again risen . 4

(18) Dry Bit e W h e n th e krait strikes b u t does n ot loose h is ven om : dry b it e. W h a t makes th e snake choose n ot to k ill you? N o t Please, n ot J didn't m ean to step on you. H e may be fresh ou t : struck recen t ly som et h in g else. Bu t : i f he wit h h old s his poison , wh en does h e do so an d why? Ca n h e t ell you are harmless t o h im ? H e can 't swallow you , so wh y k ill you? Th ere's n o use asking t h e krait : he's deaf. In t h at ch em ical, t h at sp lit -b illion t h of a secon d, h e decides an d t h e lit t le valve of h is ven om sac stays shut or opens wid e. Dry, oh dry, dry b it e—lu cky t h e day you began t o wear the krait's snake-eyed m ark on your wrist an d you walked d own t h e m o u n t a in in t o t h e valley of t h at wh ich rem ain s o f you r life. 5

(19) Horse Bleed in g to Deat h at Fu ll Gallo p (La Florida, 1540) Four arrows i n h i m , wait , five, on e so deep its feathers lie ben eat h his coat. H is rider's dead, fallen off, eleven arrows in his n eck bet ween h elm et an d breastplate, a blood y, spiky collar. W it h o u t th e weigh t of th e rid er, his lan ce, spurs, th e horse st ill ru n s, runs wh ip -b lin d , over t h e green h ills u n t il h e reaches th e wh ite-san d shore and he can r u n or walk n o m ore. 6

(20) Debate Regardin g t h e Perm issibilit y of Eat in g Mer m aid s Cold-wat er m erm aid s, an d on ly on Fridays, said Pope Ign ace VI I . Su m erian texts suggest con sen t i f h u m a n parts predecease fishy parts, b u t cu n eifor m d et ailin g t h is was lost to t o m b robbers. Th e Brit ish Ad m iralt y, sixt een t h cen t u ry, deem ed it an t h ropoph agy an d forbade it , t h ou gh castaways, after sixty days, were exem pt ed u p o n t h e d ep let ion of sea biscuit s. Taboo! Taboo!, said t h e Sou t h Sea Islanders, t h ou gh a m an co u ld m arry one if his aquatic skills impressed h er en ou gh . Con versely, a wo m an , n o m at t er h ow well she swam , co u ld n ot m arry wit h a m er m an . Uruguayan s, Iowan s, leave n o records on th e subject. Th e Germ an s find it distasteful, t h ou gh recen t ly declassified W o r ld W ar I I archives suggest cert ain U-boat c a p t a i n s . . . N o p r ob lem for t h e Fren ch : flambeed or ben eat h bearnaise. Th e official Ch in ese p osit ion is th ey d on 't have a p osit ion ! —Bu t I grow weary of t h is d ou r study, t ired o f th e books wh erein th is news is h id d e n , t h e creakin g shelves in m u seu m basements, th e cr u m b lin g pages of t h e past an d fu t u re, I' m t ired of t h is foggy research to wh ich I've devoted decades t ryin g t o find t h e t r u t h i n these matters an d wh at m atters in such t r u t h . 7

(21) Th e Professor o f An ts For his wh ole life ants were t h e life o f t h e Professor o f An t s. O n his belly, on his h an ds, knees, above t h e wor ld o f ants: wh ich colon y forages wh ere, wh e n , wh at ; wh ich tribes cooperate wit h ot h er t ribes, wh ich t ribe attacks th e sm aller tribes. Al l day, t h e sun h a m m er in g h is shoulders an d n eck above t h e wo r ld of ants. Som e days h e gives t h em shade t h ey d id n ot kn ow before. H e recognizes m an y by t h eir marks or m issin g legs. Th e Professor's got his pen an d clip b oard ou t , season after field season. Th er e go t h e leaf cutters, off to work, 6:45 A.M ., to shear t h eir sails of green . Th e harvesters carry t in y sacks of seeds to sow an d lit t le hoes to weed t h eir rows of fu n gi. An d , from a large colon y, st art in g ou t on t h eir t h rice-yearly slave-m akin g raids, t h e san guin e ants. W h e n t h e sanguines are away—the Professor has n ot ed , an d t wice p u b lish ed , th is fact—som etim es a gold en -h aired beetle (Hylurgus ligniperda) moves in t o t h eir nest, an d wh en t h e sanguines ret u rn (carryin g t h eir slaves!) t h e beetle secretes a d r in k t h at makes th e slavers h er slaves, an d t h e n ew slaves o f th e slavers h er slaves as well. Th e sanguines n eed t h e slaves to groom t h eir eggs. Th e beetle needs t h e ants to feed h er an d hers. Th e ants d on 't n eed th e beetle at all. Th e Professor needs t h e ants t o feed h i m an d h is. Back at t h e lab , at t h e ch alkb oard , h e wishes n ot t o feel wh at th ey feel wit h t h eir feelers. 8

(22) Tact ile O n e eyelash, on e m illim et er lon ger t h an each ot h er eyelash on you r left eyelid , bends at its t ip , as it , alon e, leans on m y lowest left rib's ledge, t h is single filament h o ld in g your bones to m in e . A t ou ch o f n o t o u ch , a t ou ch so ligh t the t act ile scale's n eedle barely breathes. Th e n , at t ach ed to a h u m a n as it is, th is one eyelash lashes m e t h ere, m an y t im es, an d t on igh t t h e t in y scars sh in e in t h e blue-stone dark. 9

(23) Ten Years H ar d Lab or on a Gu an o Islan d , said H is H on or , h an d in g you a p ick an d a shovel an d a t icket for a boat rid e here wh ere t h e shovel is ch ain ed to your righ t wrist an d to t h e left, a bucket . Th e pick yo u 'll wear strapped to you r back u n t il it's t im e to pick wit h it . You 'll d ig, for a decade, d own t h rou gh t h e strata t h e seabirds left over eons an d , one by on e, h au l t h e bucketfuls to the dockside piles. Th e birds stopped h ere to rest awh ile, t h e roam in g, t h e landless, t h e lon g-distan ce birds on protracted win gs. O n days, wor kin g t h e cliffs, wh en you can overlook t h e sea, you m igh t see—a foot or two above t h e waves, as you m in e his ancestors' gu t s—you m igh t st ill see on e. 10

(24) Fam ily Ph ot o Ar o u n d Xm as Tree Dad's left ar m reaches across Mo m 's back an d even across Dom e's, h is daugh ter's, an d just touch es wit h his fin gert ips his son Rusty's sh oulder. Dot t ie's t en , Rusty eigh t , t h ou gh sm all for h is age an d his left eye a lit t le lazy. Th e tree t h ick wit h foil an d ligh t s, lit candles an d a m an t el h u n g wit h m on ogr am m ed socks. Rein deer race across Dad's sweater. I f you lift th is p ict u re t o you r nose, you sm ell cider an d snow, Mo m 's valley-of-th e-lily perfu m e. Th e fire's p in e knots snap. O h bless th is fam ily an d t h eir d og, Ch ocolat e, bless th is house an d h ear t h , an d bless Gr am m y, wh o will be here soon , t h ou gh Gran d pa won 't th is year, n or dear Au n t Elsie, dear, dear Au n t . Th e b ig b lu e b owl o f crabm eat salad she b rou gh t each year d it t o won 't be h ere. Bless th is fam ily, t h e livin g an d t h e dead, an d m ay t h ey never send a card or newsletter to m e again . 11

(25) Rather Rath er strapped face to face wit h a corpse, rather an asp forced d own m y t h roat , rath er a glass t u be in serted i n m y u ret h ra an d t h en m em ber smashed wit h a h am m er , rather wan der t h e m alls o f Am erica sh oppin g for shoes, rather be lu n c h , fr om the ankles d own , for a fish, rather m istake rabbit drops for capers, or pearls, rath er m y father's bones crush ed to dust an d b lown —b lin d in g m e — i n m y eyes, rather a flash flood o f liq u id m u d , bou lders, bran ch es, d rown ed dogs, tear t h r ou gh Boys Town an d gr in d u p a t h ousan d orph an s, rath er finger puppets wit h ice picks probe m e, rather n um bn ess, rather Malaysian t on gu e wo r m , rather ru e, rather a starved rat t ied by his t ail t o m y last t oot h , rather m em ory becom e m u sh , rather n o m ore books be writ t en b u t on t h e sole subject of self, rather a ret in al t at t oo, rather buckets of bad b a cilli an d n o t h in g else to d r in k, rather t h e blat h er at an En glish Dep ar t m en t m eet in g, rath er a m o u n t a in fall on m y h ead t h an t h is, wh at I p u t d own h ere, rather all o f the above t h an t h is, t h is: 12 .

(26) Portrait of X [ III] Pu r b lin d , he rose, shot his cuffs, an d h it th e door, a gangster b u t gangless, dead in the h eart , dead in th e rat-black r u m d u m red u n d an t h eart , lost to th is wor ld an d n ot RSVPin g invites to th e next. Is th is th e one wh o wou ld lead us to a n ew aesthetic? Is th is th e on e, fragile, m o r ib u n d , afraid, wh o will lead th e fragile, m o r ib u n d , an d afraid? Is th is th e New Tr u t h messenger, th e one wh o will defin e th e New Politics or t h e New Poetics wit h th e O ld O bliqu e? H is famous sneer eats his gu t like a wo r m . J3

(27) Th r ee Vials o f Maggots were collect ed from t h e corpse fou n d lyin g in a field n ear a sm all stream . Fr o m these t h e lab can t ell at wh at t im e t h e dead on e d ied . Th ey have schedules, t h e flies. Som e lay eggs wh ich h at ch t o maggots wh ich con su m e t h e corpse. O t h ers com e t o eat flies, maggots, eggs. H id e beetles arrive t o clean t h e grist le. It's an ord erly arran gem en t . W h a t t h e maggots do th ey do for yo u .

(28) Un cle D u n g Beetle H a il, Un cle D u n g Beet le!, he wh o wherever dung m eets dirt, wh ich is everywh ere, is ou r sweet savior, wit h o u t wh o m each o f us on t h e plan et u p t o ou r necks in two-day-old—crusty o n t h e out side, soft i n t h e m id d le —cow pies, wit h o u t wh o m t h e gloom y sten ch of earth everywhere infused gloom ier, wit h o u t wh o m t h e worm s cou ld n ot carry t h eir b u r d en alon e, wit h o u t wh o m t h e earth receives less n it rogen an d m ore bacteria eat t h eir way t h r ou gh in testin es, wit h o u t wh o m n o breat h t akin g specializations: t h e d u n g beetle wh o lives in a sloth's r u m p fur and leaps off to rid e his host's droppin gs to t h e gr ou n d , a jarred b u t in st an t claim an t , wit h o u t wh o m we wo u ld be swallowin g shovelfuls of flies each day, wit h o u t wh o m on ly in heaven (an d t h en on ly after all t h e dead are evicted!) wo u ld it be possible to live. 15

(29) Th e Glet z Th r o u gh t h e lou pe or peepstone it's t h ere: a m in id ot of air, an d wh en ligh t shines t h rou gh t h e object , t h e gletz is visible via m icroscope, x-ray scope. It's a flaw, d im in ish in g an object : wh en ligh t , u n im p ed ed , passes t h r ou gh it t h e object's b r illian ce is m ost b r illian t . A gletz affects clarit y, affects m erit . It's best i f n o gletz can be fou n d at a ll. Th e gletz's place m atters: h igh er u p , bad news; lower, less-bad news. Th ey in d icat e fragilit y, these breathless, cell-sized cells wh ere t wo in m ates are locked an d each has a kn ife. 16

(30) Can Tie Shoes b u t W o n 't , — for Brendan Constantine it said on his report card , five years o ld , t h e boy so slu n g against th e river's cu rren t he was later lost in h is paper can oe, paddled h im self lost, or h a lf lost, or less lost t h an m ost , n ot in t h e m id river flot illa wit h all t h e ot h er boats figh t in g th e m ain an d ch u r n in g cu r r en t , b u t instead alon g an d beside an d even u n d er t h e river's ban ks—t h e place of overhangs an d eddies, sloughs an d wh ir lp ools, th e shaded place ben eath t h e bu g-brailled leaves, t h e pyt h on -laden bran ch es, t h e place ben eath th e bank's cool clay, bet ween t h e roots, wh ere th e t oot h y creatures cache t h eir prey for later. D i d h e travel always on one side of t h e river? N o . H ow d id he cross to th e ot h er side? Carefu lly, cu t t in g th e cu rren t wit h o u t fighting it , givin g u p some distance t o it , in order t h at , just so, t h e shade, t h e ligh t , th e sligh t u n d u lat ion s of t h e river's ben ds, are ch an ged, with intention, an d for years, u pst ream , a lifet im e, th is way, upstream h e goes, th is way, upst ream , on h is voyage. 17

(31) Th e Am er ican Fan cy Rat an d Mou se Association Rat breeders gather to p r im p an d parade t h eir best—th e ch in ch illa rat , silks, t h e Mo lu cca n cream b elly—at t h is dog show for m ice an d rats wh ere, i f en tered a cat, th ere wo u ld be n o cr own in g th is year of Rat o f t h e Year, Mou se o f t h e Decade. Th e judge cradles a q u akin g con testan t i n her p a lm . Reput at ion s m ade or b r oken , breed in g secrets, b u ild a better can cer rat an d you r prid e can t u r n to cash, pack an oth er gram o f fat on t h e t h igh s o f a m ouse an d th is news shivers u p an d d own t h e row of herpetologists here for t h e show. Th e n , in an ot h er, a back row, sit those whose interests lie in mouse an d rat aesthetics rather t h an i n t h eir beh avior or m arket p ot en t ial — O h t h e b eau t ifu l, beau t ifu l rats, they sigh , oh t h e b eau t ifu l rats. 18

(32) To H e lp t h e Mo n key Cross t h e River, wh ich h e m ust cross, by swim m in g, for fruits an d n uts, to h elp h i m I sit wit h m y rifle on a p lat form h igh i n a tree, same side o f t h e river as t h e h u n gry m on key. H o w does th is assist h im ? W h e n h e swims for it I look first u priver: predators m ove faster wit h t h e cu rren t t h an against it . If a crocod ile is aim ed from u priver t o eat t h e m on key an d an an acon da from d own river burn s wit h t h e same a m b it io n , I do t h e m at h , algebra, angles, rate-of-monkey, croc- an d snake-speed, an d if, if it looks as t h ou gh t h e an acon da or t h e croc will reach t h e m on key before h e attain s t h e river's far ban k, I raise m y rifle an d fire on e, t wo, t h ree, even four t im es in t o t h e river just b eh in d t h e m on key to h u r r y h i m u p a lit t le. Sh oot t h e snake, t h e crocodile? Th ey're just d oin g t h eir jobs, b u t t h e m on key, t h e m on key has lit t le hands like a ch ild 's, an d t h e sm art ones, i n a cage, can be t au gh t t o sm ile. !9

(33) Th e Devil's Beef Tu b Th er e are m yst eries—wh y a duck's quack doesn't ech o an ywh ere an d : Does Go d exist ?—wh ich will rem ain always as mysteries. So the same wit h cert ain abstracts align ed wit h sensory life: t h e t act ile, for exam ple, o f an iron bar to th e foreh ead. Mu r d e r is abstract, an ir on bar t o t h e sku ll is n ot . O h lost an d from t h e win d n ot a sin gle peep o f grief! O n e day you're walkin g d own th e street an d a m an wit h a m achete-shaped shard of glass (its h ilt wrapped in a blood y t owel) walks t oward yo u , purposefully, on a m ission . D o you stop to discuss h erm en eu t ics wit h h im ? D o you engage h i m in a discussion abou t Derrida? D o you worry t h at Der r id a m igh t be t h e cause o f his rage? Every day is like t h is, is a m et ap h or or a sim ile: like op en in g a can of alph abet soup an d seeing n o t h in g b u t X's, n o , look closer: lit t le n ood le swastikas. 20

(34) Boatloads o f Mu m m ie s em barked from Egypt t o New Jersey i n 1848. Boatloads o f m u m m ies by sail sold t o a p u lp m ill to m ake in t o paper. W h i c h ven t ure (on e tries to t h in k wh at th e investors t h ou gh t ) d id n 't work ou t : t h e station ery resu lt in g was gray an d gritty an d h eld n ot t h e black depths of in k. O n e wonders wh ere th e r em ain in g m u m m ies wen t . A few were gr ou n d t o powder an d p u t in jars, an d t h en on shelves of rem edies, b u t all t h e rest, t h ree or four h old fu ls, wh ere d id th ey go wh en t h e vision o f capit al failed (as visions d o, m ore often t h an they d o n 't ), wh ere d id t h e r em ain in g m u m m ifie d go? 21

(35) Th u s, H e Spoke H is Q u iet u s, — for Larry Levis (1946-1996) Larry d id , wit h his book Elegy, his elegy, his last lon g r o llin g lin es of sadness, o f un sobbed sobs, of his im m en se wrecked h eart , his finishing stroke, his last h ard dig of t h e paddle before lift in g it from t h e wat er, an d h is can oe, on t h e silen t straight lin e cu t by its keel, beaches it self on t h e sandy, t h e ligh t ed , t h e silt -lapped, t h e ot h er, shore. 22

(36) Th e Magm a Ch am b er H ere it boils an d begins t o b u ild , deep in t h e core, wh at will be lava, m olt en rock, i n great d om ed cathedrals o f rage u n d er gr ou n d even t ually expelled —t o air, and lan d . Som etim es the m agm a —feedin g u p in t o t h e spreading rift to fill t h e cracks bet ween th e separating plates —heals. Som etim es it needs a way ou t and finds it —b an g! —an d slow, remorseless rivers of liq u id rock, red rivers of rock, find t h eir way to t h e sea—t h rou gh houses an d horses, over beet fields an d p u t t in g greens, over h ospitals, eat in g t h r o u gh , wit h fire, an yt h in g t h at wants t o stay i n its place and just go on bein g. Th e orb is h ot in sid e, h u r t , wh ich is bad for those wh o gauge and receive its rage. N o t h in g can stop it bu t t h e sea wh ich boils wh ere it enters, n o t h in g b u t t h e sea is vast an d deep and cold en ou gh to take all th is p ou red fury, n o t h in g b u t t h e sea ( if it so pleases) can m ake a n ew islan d , n ew m ou n t ain s, a n ew rep u b lic of h ope. 2 3

(37) Birds Nailed to Trees So the bird s, t h r ou gh t h eir bon y yellow toes, are tacked to branches an d look as i f t h ey ch ir p , an d ch ir p we ll, in d eed . A b ir d on t h e gr ou n d tugs a wo r m fr om its h ole, a m et aph or for in dust ry an d joy. H er p lu m p t ail tilts to t h e task. Th e wo r m h olds on by a h ook in its gut . Th ere's a nest in the t ableau t oo, an d three eggs, pastel b lu e an d glu ed together. Mo t h e r , m ot h er b ir d , on nest's edge, huffs h er belly feathers an d prepares to sit u p on her h ollow eggs. A red b ir d curves overh ead, h is dive h alt ed —t h ou gh perpet u al—by on e win g p in n ed to a leaf an d a wire st run g from his beak to the black corners o f t h is box of birds, Our friends who fly, as they live today in your backyard. An d lookit over t h ere: a cat sm ackin g his eyes. An d the boy by t h e barn p u m p in g his p ellet gu n h ard . 24

(38) II (ot h er voices)

(39)

(40) Gu id e for t h e Perpetually Perplexed D o n ' t h u r t you r b r ain o n t h is: i f th e arrow poin ts left, it's left you sh ou ld go. Th e n take your first righ t , t h en t h e n ext righ t , again t h e n ext righ t , t h en an ot h er righ t . I f you h ead-on a cem en t t r u ck, it is as it sh ou ld be. Too m u ch perplexit y an d soon everyone's head is a revolvin g h ologram o f a question m ark! In stead: i f t h e sign says USE YO U R W O RD S, t h en use you r words, in th is order: subject , verb, object . In stead: i f t h e sign says SH U T T H E FU CK U P , t h en you sh ou ld sh ut th e fuck u p . If it comes over th e in t er com t o get i n lin e , for gosh sakes, t h en get in lin e , you r win gbon es to t h e wall an d eyes forward. D o n o t h in g to fu rt h er perplex t h e ot h er perplexed. W e 'll let you kn ow wh en it's sin gle file for lu n c h , wh ere it's first you r placemats o f puzzles an d im possible dots t o discon n ect followed by you r beans, an d you r b r own m eat , gray, over wh ich yo u 'll pray, o h yes, yo u 'll pray, if you d on 't wan t us t o break you r n eck. 2 7

(41) I f O n e Can Be Seen If one can be seen, how can one see?, t h e O n e Afraid to Be Seen said in m y office on a late February aft ern oon . Th e gold seals on m y diplom as leach ed to yellow i n t h e weak ligh t . I loat h e Februarys. Th e O n e Afraid t o Be Seen wore a p u p p et theater on his h ead. I t ried to answer his qu est ion . Looking outward while being looked at need not stop you from going forth into the world, I offered. Th er e was a cord t h at th e O n e Afraid to Be Seen cou ld p u ll to open t h e cu rt ain s on his face. H e m oved as i f to p u ll t h e cord b u t d id n 't , t h en again reached for it an d open ed t h e cu rt ain s a shiver, t h en closed t h e m again , an d again raised a h an d as i f to open . . . an d I whack-sm acked t h e pu ppet theater off h is h ead wit h a lon g, lo o p in g, kn uckle-dust ed backh an d slap I learn ed in n ot one of t h e best schools (b u t n ot a bad one eit h er) in m y profession an d its appoin t ed tasks. 28

(42) Th e Year t h e Locu st H a t h Eat en Th ey ch ewed m y lawn d own to sand an d t h en polish ed each facet of each sand grain wit h t h eir relentless win gs an d t h en were u p an d off again , a h uge b a ll, a t orn ad o, a rack-clackin g win d of t h em . Th ey ate th e sheep o f all b u t t h eir wool. Th ey ate t h e trees' leaves, t h en t h e twigs, t h en th e bran ch es, t h en t h e t ru n ks, t h en sent ou t sappers for t h e roots. Th ey gnawed fence posts leavin g parallel rows of barbed wire across bald fields. Th ey took d own t h e haystacks an d fou n d n o needles. Th ey left t h e b ookm ob ile tireless an d wit h b u t one book u n eat en : (in sert odious book of you r ch oice). Th ey con su m ed th e letters in t h e at t ic, all t h e letters from sea t o lan d an d lan d t o sea, all t h e letters o f fun eral an d woo. Gran dm a's wed d in g dress—leaving a wreck o f pearl bu t t on s—t h ey devoured. Th ey bu zz-cu t t h e attic an d its sawdust sifted d own to t h e second floor—which was wh en I fled an d left b eh in d t h e b it t en lan d an d t h e year t h e locust h at h eaten. 29

(43) Bu r n ed Forests an d Horses' Bones are all we see wh en we cross th e river to this lan d . Two or t h ree days, we guess, since t h e fire reach ed th is shore an d wen t to sleep. Th is is wh ere it st opped, n ot wh ere it started. W h y d id n 't it leap th is n arrow river? We see b u t wisps, locally, o f sm oke. We can 't go back t h e way we cam e. Before we crossed to this scorch ed shore, we kn ew: we can 't go back wh en ce we cam e. Th e t rail is ch arred wit h drifts of ash, b u t passable. We are n in e m e n , t h ree wo m e n , seven ch ild r en , t h ree m u les—t wo p u llin g carts; t h e t h ir d , a pack on its back—on e d og, on e d u ck. We see n o t h in g b u t th e b u r n ed bones of horses, n o t for m iles, n ot h in g n ot gray or black. Because his whiteness (t h ou gh goin g a grim y gray) offends us, we'll eat t h e d u ck. Th r ee m ore days we travel am id sm old erin g stum ps, crossing sooty streams, n o sounds b u t t h e screech ou r feet m ake oh th e black an d squeaky gr ou n d . At n igh t t h ere is n o wood wit h wh ich t o b u ild a cookin g fire. Tom orrow we'll hack u p an arm oire an d k ill an d roast th e d og. N o t on e o f th e ch ild r en will cry. 3°

(44) W e have t h ree m ules yet, t wo carts. W e have one m ission : t o arrive wh ere th e fire started an d pass over it t o t h e place before t h e fire began. 3 1

(45) Let t er to W alt W h it m a n from a Soldier H e Nu rsed i n Ar m or y Square H osp it al, W ash in gt on , D .C., 1866 dear W alt , k in d u n cle, its near two years since I left Arm ory Sq. & I'm h om e n ow. Th e corn grew good this su m m er an d we bou gh t 2 cows. M y leg ain 't righ t st ill b u t it's st ill m y leg. W h e n you p r om m iced they wo u ld n 't take it was the first t im e after t h e grapeshot I d id n 't wan t to go to the wor ld wh ere th ere is n o p art in g. Dear Un cle, we have h ad a son born ed & we call h i m W alt er W h it m a n W illis, he is well & Br igh t as a d ollar. Yrs Affection ately, Bill W illis 3 2

(46) Scorpion s Everywh ere Th er e goes on e disguised as a m ouse! An d those gray fellows, bushy t ails, wh o ju m p from tree to roof to fence. W at ch t h eir eyes as t h ey wat ch you wh ile t h ey eat t h eir nuts. Th ey are everywhere n ow an d , t oo, t h eir cousin s, t h e wh it e-t ailed browsers (Bam b i is a baby o f t h eir species' n am e) wh o eat ou r suburb's shrubs an d herbs; an d those t h at p u r r , an d those m out h -breat h ers, d r oolin g woofers, an d t h e ones wit h ban d it eyes wh o trash t h e t rash —all of these creatures (an d , t oo, t h eir spawn) are n ot as t h ey seem. D o n ot m ore an d m ore of t h e m m ove closer an d closer? D o you look o u t t h e win d ow an d see two? D o you t u r n away, t u r n back, see three? D o you hear t h e lit t le brot h er of t h e wo lf h o wlin g from t h e m arsh near t h e golf course, th e 8t h tee? H e leads t h e m a ll, qu ick, cu n n in g, an d assisted by his m in ist er, a gn at. Each is, in fact —t h is is certain — a scorpion an d h olds a p h ial o f ven om u n t il t h e t im e it's t im e to in ject i n you ! O h h h h —o n t h e day th e win d is wrecked , o n t h e day t h e sky breaks, on th e day th e sea creeps u n d er a rock! 33

(47) Myop e Th e boy can 't see b u t what's righ t in fron t o f h i m . Ask h i m about t h at clock across t h e r o o m , he can 't see it , or h e d on 't care. H e makes a p ict u re o f a m ou n t ain —h e's lo o kin g at th e m o u n t a in !—a n d it comes ou t fuzzy an d he puts i n cliffs an d fizzers t h at ain 't t h ere. Sit an apple d own o n t h e t able an d h e can draw it i n p e n cil, i n color, on ce so r igh t I alm ost took a bit e. An d he's got a nose on h i m like a h o u n d . H is daddy says he can sniff a rat i n a freezer. A set o f ears, t oo: he says h e hears his baby brot h er cryin g an d I can get to h i m just as he opens his m o u t h t o wail an d in m y arms it's righ t to sleep again . Th a t com es i n h an dy, som etim es. Som etim es a baby's got to cry. Th e boy's a b it od d . H e likes books a lot . O n a h ot su m m er even in g, I swear, he's readin g on t h e p orch an d th e t u r n in g pages m ake a breeze. 34

(48)

(49)

(50) To Plow an d Plan t t h e Seashore H is tractor rattles d own t h e dun es: low t id e, it's t im e to p low t h e seashore an d t h en follow wit h t h e finer h arrow blades to com b th is r ich earth sm ooth er. Th e bits of sh ell an d weed will con t rib u t e to t h e harvest. He's n ot been farm in g lon g—see: he has all his fingers to t h eir tips. N o , he's n ot been farm in g lon g. No w his field is ready an d it's t im e to plan t his seeds in earth t h rou gh wh ich he p u lled his farmer's tools. Th is year, it's corn : he loves t h e lit t le yellow crown s. Yes, th is year it's co r n , the farm er t h in ks, last year the soybeans d id n 't take an d t h e yield was: m in us-bean s, i.e., t h e seed beans, t oo, were gon e. Co r n will love th is r ich an d m u d d y grou n d an d grow in rows over his lon g b u t t h in t wo acres. Th at 's wh at th ey gave t h e farm er: two acres, a tractor wit h its partners, an d t h at lit t le house in t h e blue-green sea grass above his field . Also four ch icken s. Th ey gave h i m four ch icken s an d a h am m er, an d a p it ch fork. Th is is wh at they gave h i m an d he was glad for it , an d for his t it le: farmer. H is fields are t illed . Som eday h e'll have a daugh t er an d a son. By m o r n in g, t h e farm er t h in ks, t h e shoots will be u p an in ch or t wo. Th e wron ged one is always t h e wron g on e. 37

(51) Am p h r ib r ach Dan ce Rem em ber, first fallin g, an d fallin g, from lofty, from distan t, from dizzy cliff's slim ledge, yes fallin g, t h rou gh clear, n ot blu e-bu rn ed air, yet fallin g, st ill fallin g to soft san d, to h ard sea, to lon gin g for lon gin g, an d m u ch less: t h e b roken , t h e t h u n ky, t h e d an cin g we each d id , t h e heels d o wn , t h en toes u p , t h en heels d own , t h e r ockin g, t h e forward an d , yes, back— its measure so awkward, t h e sad dan ce we each d id , rem em b er, rem em ber? 38

(52) Rem ora Clin gin g t o t h e shark is a sucker shark, at t ach ed to wh ich an d feedin g off its cru m bs is one st ill t in ier, in ch or t wo, an d on top o f t h at on e, on e t h e size o f a n ick of gauze; sm aller an d sm aller (m or on , id iot , im b ecile, n in com p oop ) u n t il on t op o f t h at is th e last, a m icr od ot sucker shark, a filament's t ip —w it h a h eart beat —sliced off, an d t h e great sea all arou n d feedin g his host an d th us h i m . He's too sm all to be eaten h im self (t h ou gh some t h in gs swim wit h open m ou t h s) so he just rides alon g i n th e b lu e cu rren t , t h e in visible p oin t of th e p yr am id , t h e t op ben eat h all else. 39

(53) Nat ion al Im p alem en t Statistics O n e ou t o f eigh t deaths occu r r in g i n t h e h om e or on picn ics is im palem en t -relat ed . Four t h ou san d an d eleven people die in h om e accidents in t h e USA each year (on average over th e past decade), so t h at means 501.375 people die of h om e im palem en t s each year. Two h u n d r ed an d eighty-seven people die on picn ics each year in th e USA, therefore 35.875 (one does n ot r ou n d off h u m a n beings!) people die by im p alem en t on picn ics, m ost ly by fork, b u t m an y m ore t h an on e m igh t expect by t oot h p ick, p art icu larly in th e Nort h east region of t h e cou n t ry. Th e den ot at ive: sharp object enters one part of body an d , som etim es, emerges from an ot h er part of body, oft en , t h ou gh n ot always, en d in g in exp irat ion . O n e loves the exceptions: he wh o lives wit h t h e shaft of a golf clu b skewerin g his n eck an d learns t o walk sideways t h r ou gh doors; she wh o lives wit h a lo n g sliver of ice, ever u n m e lt in g, in h er ch est . . . Th e h om e is a bruised an d b u r n in g place an d in it lives a wo r m , an d t h e p icn ic, t h e p icn ic is eat in g on t h e gr ou n d as leopards do wh en th ey are n ot eat in g i n t h e trees. 40

(54) Asafetida Th e good , good t h in g for you as prescribed by an ot h er, bit t er to t h e taste, an d , t oo, it stinks like a n eck after a boot h eel is lift ed , for a m o m e n t , from it . Like an eely spike in a sinus. A h orse-ch okin g p ill p u t in a p lu n ger an d shot d own you r t h roat —it 's good for yo u , will im p rove you , you n eed it , p u t a lit t le h on ey on t h is t in y b o m b an d take it d o wn , take it righ t d own . 4i

(55) 1 : r i74 5 7 P i m o Le vi, an Elegy — for Michael Ryan I t h ou gh t Jews were just an ot h er d en om in at ion : Episcopalian s, Met h od ist s, Jews, Cat h olics, Lu t h eran s, etc. I kn ew H it ler h ated Jews. I kn ow I hated H it ler . I was a ch ild . Th e n am e o f ou r parish was St. Ph ilip 's. I h ad n o idea wh o St. Ph ilip was. I n con fir m at ion class I was asked th e n am e o f a Jewish cleric an d I said "a rab b it ." I liked t o play wit h words. I liked t o read words. I liked t h e soun d o f words. I n novels an d poem s an d h ist ory books: I liked t o read sentences. I read an d read. I d id oth er t h in gs t oo. Bu t I read h u n dreds an d h un dreds o f books. Ma n y years passed. O n e day, m y frien d said to m e: You sh ou ld read t h is book. H e read a lot of books t oo. H e said h e an d h is wife were readin g your book alou d t o each oth er every n igh t . Th ey lived deep in t h e cou n t ry, in a farm house o n a red h ill. Th ey were very broke d u r in g those years. Readin g you r book aloud to each oth er. W h e n th ey finally got a lit t le m on ey t h ey m oved , an d m y frien d said h e felt com p elled , as th ey were leavin g t h e house for t h e last t im e , t o open t h e cabin et ben eat h t h e kit ch en sin k. W rap p ed arou n d t h e d rain p ip e was a lo n g, t h ick, gray snake t ryin g to war m h im self. I read your book an d I read it alou d t oo, in m y own lon ely house — I read it for myself, for m y frien ds, an d for t h at snake, an d th is is wh y I' m wr it in g t o you n ow, t h ou gh you n o lon ger have an address, t o t ell you : I read your book. I read you r book. 42

(56) Goofer-Dust (dirt stolen from an infant's grave around m idnight) D o n ot try to take it from m y ch ild 's grave, n or from t h e grave of m y ch ild h o o d , n or from any infant's grave I gu ard —vood oo, ju ju , boo-hoo rites callin g for it or n ot ! Th is dust, t h is d irt , will n ot be t aken at dawn or n oon or at t h e dusky t im e , an d i f you approach th is sacred place near m id n igh t , t h en I will ch op , one by on e, your fingers off wit h wh ich you do your h ar m . Goofer-dust: i f you wan t it , if you need it , t h en erect d o wn win d fr om a baby's grave a fine-meshed n et an d gather it on e-h alf grain , a flaky m ot e, an in fin it esim ally sm all fleck of a flake at a t im e an d in such a way it is given t o you by t h e day, t h e win d , the wo r ld , it is given t o you , th ereby d im in ish in g t h e n eed to steal th is d irt displaced by a ch ild in a ch ild's grave. 43

(57) W i t h Maet erlin ck's Great Book, The Life of the Bee, I beh eaded a bee staggering on t h e glass pat io door as I open ed it to read above book on above pat io. Th e bee sluggish , first cold co m in g on . I an gled an d aim ed t h e book's spine to detach its h ead, an d d id so. I h ad fifty or so m ore pages to read. I was in d ifferen t to irony's b lu e acid b at h : I d on 't get lost i n on e-h un dred-year-old books about bees every day. All I felt was a desire t o shake t h e h an d of Ma u r ice Maet er lin ck, wh o loved these creatures an d showed it so in th e ch oice an d order of his words. 44

(58) Ter m in al Lake Alt h o u gh they kn ow n o oth er waters an d have n o creat ion m yt h s, t h e fish d on 't like it h ere: n o way ou t , n o river to swim upstream or d own . Ter m in al Lake squats t h ere, its belly filled by springs, r ain an d ice an d snow. It's deep, Ter m in al Lake, an d n o one's gone to t h e b ot t om an d com e back u p . All's b lin d d own t h ere, an d cold . Fr om above, it's a h uge black co in , it's as i f the real lake is d rain ed an d th is lake is t h e d rain : gapin g, lan guageless, suck- an d sin kh ole. 45

(59) Th e Ch ie f At t en d an t of t h e Na p k in stands beside t h e kin g wh en he dines, a n ap kin h u n g on his ar m . It was his father's job , an d his father's father's. H e stands to t h e r igh t so he can step forward an d t u r n t o offer the k in g his ar m , a n ap kin rack, from wh ich t h e kin g removes t h e n ap kin , dabs his m o u t h , an d return s it t o its rack. Th e kin g is a good k in g, an d his m an n ers likewise. Th e n he dies. Th e n ew k in g is a bad k in g, so the serfs cu t off his h an ds. He's a better k in g for it . Th e Ch ie f At t en d an t of t h e Napkin 's task now? No t on ly to at t en d t h e n ap kin b u t also to dab the king's m o u t h . H is son will have this job . It's better t h an t h e n ew positions: t h e Ch ie f Atten dan ts of t h e Kn ife, t h e Fork, an d the Spoon . Th ey stand to t h e king's left an d t wo feet back so t h at t h e k in g m ay call t h em sin gly to the t able, or, most often 46

(60) in t h at co m m o n d u o, Kn ife an d Fork. Spoon , poor Spoon t h e k in g calls u p fron t , alon e, for m ilk-sopped bread or gru ely soup. 47

(61) Th e Mo u n t ain s i n t h e River on th e W ay to t h e Sea O n ce, th ere were m ore m ou n t ain s, bigger m ou n t ain s. Th e still-h ere m ou n t ain s were bigger. Th e Him alayas were four tim es bigger! Th e n t h e rains cam e, an d the Jovian W in d s, an d cold t o crack the r ain , an d they t ook some of t h e m ou n t ain s every day to the rivers, wh ich took t h e m , a grain at a t im e , to t h e ocean . Rain , win d , rivers: th ey do all the work wh ile t h e ocean waits wit h its m o u t h open at the river's m o u t h . Just as t h e seas on ce rose t o t h e m ou n t ain s, t h e m ou n t ain s will go again to t h e et ern al sea's soft bed. 48

(62) Reject W h a t Confuses You Reject what confuses you, Outlaw what seduces you, What did not spring from a pure will, Into the flames with what threatens you. — firesong for Nazi book burnings Most of us wh o m ost of t h e t im e wo u ld n 't be shocked wo u ld be if you showed us t h e pict ures i n th is book, wo u ld be h orrified an d prefer n ot t o look an d be adam an t ou r ch ild r en n ot look b u t also be t oleran t —corn erst on e for us —an d ad m it t h at t h e artist can express h erself however she wan ts, First Am en d m en t , free speech . . . Bu t wh en rem in d ed we are payin g t h e artist, even m eagerly, in d ir ect ly (taxes: N EA) , t h en we t h in k oth erwise: " I am com m ission in g you , am in fact your collaborat or, so d on 't say (p ain t , ph ot ograph ) t h at ; I wo u ld n 't ." —Sorry, I beg to differ, au contraire! D o n ' t give m on ey to support t h e arts, taxes or oth erwise. An d (easy for some t o say) d on 't take any m on ey before you m ake t h e art. Ask t h em t o pay after you give t h e m t h e art , n ot before.

(63) Flies So Th ick above t h e Corpses i n th e Ru b b le, t h e Soldiers Mu st Use Flam et h rowers to Pass Th r o u gh An d th e lit t le roasted flies fall in t o t h e ru in s t oo, an d m ore flies com e—sh oo fly, sh oo— u n t il there's n o t h in g for t h em to com e t o an ym ore, n o t h in g b u t sky, blan ket y-blan k blan k blank sky. 5°

(64) Th e Ice W orm 's Life is sun -avoidin g, an d by b u rred flanks th ey wriggle t h r ou gh the glacier wh ich t h ey'll never leave n or ever m eet ice worm s of a n eigh b orin g glacier. To t h em is t h e u n exam in ed life wor t h livin g? By day a few yards in / u n d er ice an d t h en wild n igh t s, wild n igh ts on t h e glacier's surface wh ere to t h e m t h e win d brin gs p o llen , fern spores, an d t h e algae t h at t in t the b lu e frozen water red . Th e ice worm s gorge, t h ey gorge, thousands of t h e m , in t h e dark, i n the co ld , aspirin g to grow from on e-t en t h of an in ch to four-tenths of an in ch . All n igh t , t h e glacier a lawn of t h em ben t by t h e win d , an d by dawn they've gone d own in t o t h e ice to sleep, to m at e, u n t il it is t im e to ascend again : ou r refrigerative fellow creatures, ou r n eighbors on t h e glacier beside ours wh o , i f we cou ld in vit e t h e m in t o ou r livin g room s, wo u ld decom pose in fifteen m in ut es (t h at soon!) an d go wh erever t h eir th eology tells t h em th ey m ust go. 5i

(65) Provincia Aurifera Let's go t h ere: t h e gold-bearin g lan d . It's in t h e trees, beaches of it , it's sand! You p ick it u p an d p u t it in you r pocket. Let's go t h ere: t h e gold-bearin g lan d . Look at your gir l in t h e locket she gave you : gold will be in you r hands. Let's go t h ere: t h e gold-bearin g lan ds, it's i n t h e trees, beaches o f it , it's sand! 52

(66) I W i l l Please, Said t h e Placebo O n e h u n d r ed m en have an in exp licab le, harm less, t h ou gh p ain fu l space, or glob u le, or vacu u m , n o bigger t h an a baby pea, smack in t h e m id d le of t h eir brain s: an an t i-t u m or , less t h an b en ign , since t h ere is n o place in wh ich a m align an cy m ay grow. All these m e n are b rou gh t t o a h osp it al, lin ed u p , an d cou n t ed off: fifty od d , fifty even. Th e n t h e doctors give t h e exp erim en t al dose t o t h e odds an d sugar p ills to t h e evens. Th ey all go h o m e, have d in n er , an d take t h eir p ills. Th e doctors said: O n t op of a fu ll belly, take your p ills. By m o r n in g, fifty of th e m e n h ad d ied , peacefully, i n sweet sleep, i n greeny dreams. Fift y st ill lived : twenty-five wh o t ook t h e sugar p ill, twenty-five wh o t ook t h e d ru g. Autopsies an d CAT scans on t h e dead an d th e livin g, respectively, showed n o ch an ge in t h e size o f t h e em ptin ess, wit h one except ion : a t a ll, reedy m an , one o f t h e dead, whose an om aly h ad sh ru n k, t h e doctors said, to t h e size of a BB.

(67) H osp it alit y an d Revenge You in vit e you r n eigh bor over for a beer an d a piece o f p ie. H e says words in appropriat e about you r Xm as bric-a-brac. You shoot h i m , th ree t im es, i n th e face. W h ile you co m p lain t o his first son re h igh off-wh it e-couch clean in g costs, h e shoots you i n th e face five t im es. At your wake, your first son pu m ps eigh t slugs b eh in d his first son's left ear. Your wife in vites your n eighbor's wid ow for tea. 54

(68) Fr o m t h e H igh Gr o u n d , it's a gran d view o f valley an d farm , a lu cid view of steeples an d graveyards, of all t h e t in y people u p M a i n Street an d d own Ma p le , o f t h e m id d le an d gram m ar schools t oo. Fr o m t h e h igh groun d's elevat ion : a lo n g look at the good boys an d bad , a len gt h y look at t h e gir l o n t h e swin g as h er skirt billows. Th ere's the m a ilm a n wh o reads every let t er. Th ere's t h e r in g i n its box on a lit t le black p illow. Th ere's t h e m ilk m a n t akin g too lon g to deliver his m ilk . Th ere's the librarian 's un dies on the lin e—silk. Fr om the h igh grou n d all is clear, in t erp ret able, lu cu len t : this is wh at t h is m eans. Th e Berchtesgaden view, a dog at your h eel. Fr om the h igh grou n d (low shrubs stubbed by t h in win ds) t h e stony pat h reaches h igh er st ill, loft ier, t o heaven alm ost, as it grows n arrower, an d m ore n arrow. 55

(69) Dyst opia For shoes: rat skins du ct -t aped arou n d a foot. Shirts: sacks used to h au l cor n to H igh Feast Day d in n ers. Th e same corn's husks used to p olish t h e boots o f t h e adjut an t s an d baked in t o bread by t h e ad ju t an t s' adju t an t s. Th er e are n o ribs wit h o u t elbows i n t h em . Th er e is n o sh oulder wit h o u t th e breat h o f an ot h er on it . Co u gh in g carries across seas an d sod. Th e Dysen tery W ar d fights t h e Typh u s W ar d for a m elo n r in d wh ich , i n t h e con fu sion , is stolen by a leper wh o silences h is bell's clapper wit h his t h u m b 's stub. W h e n t wo love h ere, an d som etim es t wo do love h ere, th ey are fam ished for each oth er b u t too weak t o rise from t h eir pallets o f straw to kiss. It is by t h eir serene looks an d on e-eigh t h smiles t h e grave crews h on or t h em —p lacin g one first, t h e ot h er secon d, in a twen ty-person t r en ch . N o casseroles for th e m ou rn ers. Th e th ree or fou r r em ain in g haves are q u ickly eaten by t h e have-nots. 56

(70) Mo n key Bu t t er Mon key butter's tasty, tasty, you p u t it i n cookies an d p ie, you m ix it i n cake, I can 't t ell you a lie: d on 't be ligh t wit h it , n or hasty to push it aside. It's n ot t oo sweet, wit h a ligh t banana-y h u e, t h e m onkeys all love it , an d so will t h e one you call you, t h e you who's an ot h er you wan t to love you . Pu t it i n his p u d d in g, in h er pastry puff, t h en sweep t h e t able of all t h at ot h er stuff. Lat er, leave a lit t le i n his left, h er righ t , shoe. 57

(71) Breakbon e Fever O n t h e fem ur a b rick drops h ar d , from t h e t op r ib to b ot t om a steel bar slams, on n eck bones an d sku ll, on clavicle, t h e fever drops its stones, on t h e kn u ckles, the wrist bon e; t h e carpals, b ot h regular an d m et a-, t h ey get cellar doors slam m ed on t h em . O h t h e capit at e, h am at e, lu n at e, an d pisiform bones take a bad beat in g: ball-peens ban g an d jackh am m ers jack against each on e. Even some join ts —in t erph alan geal agon y!—ligam en t s, get th is fever, go d own wit h it ; even fingernails, nerveless them selves, battered by it , an d h air, h air enters t h e sku ll like a h o t n eedle. W a t ch ou t , ossicular ch ain —h am m er , an vil, st irru p, bones sm aller t h an grains o f rice in th e ear's pea-sized cave, fu ll grown since b ir t h , first to t u r n to ash, wat ch o u t —t h e p ain th ere will t ell you wh o owns t h e h eat, wh o aligns t h e tenses—past, present, fu t u re, an d n on e, will show you wh o owns t h e fishhook frict ive verbs, wh o assigns th e persons, places, an d t h in gs, wh o islands t h e ocean , wh o affords t h e tree its rin gs, wh o owns, i n fact, you r b list erin g bones. 58

(72) Can 't Sleep t h e Clown s W i l l Eat M e — for Claudia it says on t h e dead author's ("th e au t h or is dead") daughter's T-sh irt . H e sympathizes wit h t h is lin e an d his daugh ter wh o wears it , an d recognizes t h at its au t h or (wh o also m ust be dead) wrot e the lin e to describe an d m ock dread, in som n ia, fear. Th e au t h or, h er father (co n t in u in g to be dead), buys t h e sh irt for his above-m en t ion ed ch ild because she likes t h e lin e. Th e au t h or (dead as a b r ick) is glad his daugh ter enjoys an d understands t h e lin e , t h at it's fu n n y, parod ic, od d . Th is pleases t h e au t h or (a rot t in g corpse) an d—forever, d own t h e bou levard o f elm s an d ash, forever beside the in d et erm in at e river in t o t h e lon g n igh t , forever wit h h is ch ild an d t h eir blood -on -blood —h e w i l l , h e will be h appy learn in g t o live wit h bein g dead. 59

(73) Ren der, Ren der Boil it d own : feet, skin , grist le, bones, vertebrae, h eart m u scle, b oil it d own , skim , an d b oil again , dream s, h ist ory, add t h em an d b o il again , b oil an d skim in closed cau ld ron s, b oil you r horse, his hooves, t h e run n ed-over dog you loved , t h e gir l by t h e p en cil sharpener wh o looked at you , looked away, b oil t h at for h ou rs, ren der it d own , take m ore from t h e t op as m ore settles to t h e b ot t om , t h e h eavier, t h e denser, t h row in ach e an d sperm , an d a bead of sweat t h at slid from your ar m p it to you r waist as you sat stiff-backed before a test, t u r n u p the fire, b oil an d skim , b oil some m ore, add a fever an d th e virus t h at b lin d ed an eye, now's t h e t im e to add gu ilt an d fear, t h row logs on t h e fire, coal, gasolin e, t h row t wo goldfish in t h e pot (t h eir swim bladders used for "clear in g"), b o il an d b o il, ren der it d own an d d ist ill, con cen t rat e t h at for wh ich th ere is no other use at all, b oil it d o wn , d own , t h en stir it wit h rosewater, t h at wh ich is n ow one dense, fatty, scented red essence 60

(74) wh ich you smear on your lips an d go fort h to p lan t as m an y kisses u p on t h e as t h e wor ld can bear!

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(76) T H O M A S L U X h olds t h e Bou rn e Ch air i n poetry an d is t h e d irect or of t h e McEver Visit in g W rit ers Program at t h e Georgia In st it u t e of Tech n ology. H e received t h e Kin gsley Tufts Award for his collect ion Split Horizon. H e has been awarded t h ree N EA grants an d is a form er Gu ggen h eim fellow. H e lives in At lan t a.

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