A group of people look into the well. I lean over too,
we stare at each other upside down. There's a man
mannequin in the water. One of the people says
we should rescue him with a spear gun and rope, another
that we should ask a woman mannequin to make the first
feel lonely and capable of flight. But what if he's gay,
someone asks. I remind them of the oppressive condition
in which our hero lives, being, not even wood,
but a plastic designed to keep clothes from snagging.
As is often the case, we soon resent his misery,
lean back in the short grass and talk of angora sweaters
we've loved, of the expression mannequins perfect,
the one that says, my smile, I owe my smile to this shade
of burgundy. When I wake, the man mannequin
stands above me, dripping, his smooth crotch shining
in moonlight. It occurs to me we may have ruined
his privacy, and I want to sing him a song that says
how sorry I am, but the only sounds that come to mind
are of two cars smashing on the highway, and I wake
the man beside me, and we run head first at each other
to sing this song.
MAKING A LIST
My suggestion: think big.
If you'd like vaginas in your hands, ask.
You don't need to file
an environmental impact statement.
All I want for Christmas
is an oculus in my head, my brain
touched by sunlight.
Simply bore a hole in my skull,
which is called trepanning,
I'll resemble the Pantheon in
The Pantheon's where the gods lived,
the oculus how they came and went,
though they mostly came.
Oculus means eye, I'd like a third eye
in my head, elbow in my knee, tongue
in every finger. I never
got to sit on Santa's lap.
Did you know there are four hundred
and seventy thousand Santas, all of them
picking up their suits about now
from dry cleaners, who use chemicals
thought to make us sterile.
They give away calendars too, I like
to bury mine day by day
with an X in the little boxes,
and at the end of the year,
cut out the pictures
of rivers and sunsets and take them
to rivers and sunsets
and say, this is what you look like,
you look like July, like November,
and then I fasten the sunset to the sunset
with a magnet shaped like a banana,
and the river licks itself off and leaves.
She explained, when her husband walked away,
that he was convinced his head was a balloon.
We'd had a lovely chat about the flat tax
and how every wall deserves a window, an idea
that had her tapping her cigarette too soon,
when there was no ash, against the ashtray
I was thinking of stealing. I liked them
as I like the bookends I own that were separated
at birth -- one a simple metal job and one
a replica of the Flat Iron carved from marble --
and we drank hard and fast to make it aerobic.
When it was her turn to pee, the body's excuse
for reading graffitti --
Life is like trying to hang a painting of the sky
to the sky
My boyfriend curves to the right but votes straight
-- he said, my wife thinks I'm holding my hands
against the sides of my head but I'm really
holding my head between my hands. It's a matter
of perspective, he went on, leaning forward
to take his shot glass in his mouth.
When she came back, we realized not one of us
knew the Canadian National Anthem,
though we all loved the start. His idea
was to form a club called The Perfect Strangers,
meetings to be held the first whenever of the month,
in the bar you happen to be in when it occurs to you
you don't need to be alone. We shared
every other digit of our phone numbers
and I watched them skip away,
his head on a string and she letting go.
CONSIDERATION OF SONG
I've been trying to think of things that sound like Ethel Merman
in a bread box. Ethel Merman in a bread box is of course
choice #1, my father's Jacobson lawn mower is next,
then there's a blender full of keys on frappé, a bag
of one hundred thousand molars dragged behind a car, and now
I wonder why I wonder this. I guess it's because
I've never been, or even tried to be, a Minotaur.
This refusal to embody the lives of others
makes me feel lonely, which brings to mind
large sounds coming from large bodies in large halls,
and this, if you look her up, is the definition
of Ethel Merman. I've known a few singers who've done well
locally, they have gigs, fans, they own microphones
and water their voices, one wears a red scarf
around his throat like it's a Christmas tree. They say
they feel abandoned when the night ends, when the crowd
breaks into particles, into dust, I've imagined this grief
as skin made of butterflies when the butterflies leave.
There is no business like show business, nothing like the voice
reaching out, nothing I can do except listen, and scream,
and every morning, when I put bread to my ear, I hear fields
coming closer, wind walking fingertip by fingertip
across the wheat, singing nothing, nothing but eat.
THE RELIGIOUS IMPULSE
What do you think of the bible?
-I own one or two, don't read them, I enjoy
turning the pages, the paper thin as slices
Garlic slices are thicker than that.
-Slices of cloud.
Though it would be cool, cooking with the bible.
When someone asked you, how's the spaghetti, you could say,
needs more bible.
-I could say that anyway.
But you don't.
-Nor dolphin toothpicks or advanced
geothermal calisthenics. Why do you ask about the bible?
I'm trying to inject one into my arm.
-So the bookshelves didn't work out?
Different kind of hobby. It tickles so far, going in.
-I once snorted the Bhagavad Gita.
So you understand. It's really pretty here,
you should come up soon, bring Karen and the kids.
-I don't know anyone named Karen.
Exactly. I'm thinking ahead.
-Am I a good father?
Mostly. Though one night, when little Toby ran around
the house with a crayon in each hand, marking up the walls,
playing "siren siren, house on fire," you loaded your fist
and cocked your arm.
-I wanted to pop the little sucker.
But you didn't.
Because he doesn't exist.
-Now you're breaking my heart.
I was calling to tell you about a bird I saw this morning.
It must have been about eight feet long, mostly Christmas tree
green, though it had a red band around its neck and four
yellow spots on its tail, which was split in two, and it made
a sound like a battery being slipped into a camera, and flew
seven and a half times around the house, its eyes
had goldfish inside, I used the binoculars, I love
those binoculars, I go everywhere with them, I even make love
while staring through them at Louise, she scares
the hell out of me, her nose is a tunnel for a train,
it was a pretty bird.
-Do you ever regret not being someone else?
You mean someone abnormally fragrant, someone who owns
a tri-corn hat, someone who trains rats to go into buildings
and look for survivors, someone with an inner-ear dilemma?
-I was thinking of this woman I see out in a field.
She never moves, the grass grows around her, gets mowed,
crows have these conversations with her hair, I think
her face is a creature of wind. When I walk out
to talk to her, she isn't there, but as soon as I leave
the field, and turn, she's back.
And you'd like to be her?
-I'd like to be the spot between her vagina and her thigh.
There are two of those, which one do you want to be?
The one least kissed.