Eric Graham. Mommie Dearest, 2012, oil on linen. Courtesy of the artist.
You have the vague hope. Like a fritillary
it ekes along the perimeter of what
you can see. It is some consequence of youth,
this idea that you can be revived.
Until then, each day seems like that
apartment you’ve lived in—unfurnished,
wet with primer. Then the weekend is gone,
television having usurped it with
the dressage portion of the event. Increasingly
you rely on the idea that you were nearly
understood. The sky all fumes.
Inside, a refrigerated lily holds itself
still. The post-industrial town fits its
hours in envelopes. So you assuage yourself
with the person you never knew.
She sits in the mind like a
telephone. The feeling can’t help be
compounded. I read the article that said
we weren’t supposed to look each
other in the eyes. Without being asked,
the unceremonious plot resets itself. You are
in love. Everyone, at every corner,
suddenly like road flares.
It is a useless admiration, the waves
slopping buttermilk and their
own soon-cancelling eyes, horsemites,
withdrawing that individual laze,
underneath it the rocks worked on,
satined. I kind of lost myself.
Blue saturating the night’s mesh,
everyone asleep in their tents. I was meaning
to be up, ready for another numinous data
transfer. Seagulls like some
two-handed vase. But I looked away
as often as at it, heel-dragging
this irritant sand. It is indivisible—
the regenerating chop, immune
to being seen.
There is nothing to do on the beach
except long for unrepentant
verbs, ask them for their unrepentant
idea. Everyone else sawing
through dreams—what the French call
unhitching, that interval
of glad interruption, like a ribboned
aroma that carries you to breakfast.
Soon it will be dross midnight, stars
in their genderless arrangements,
a soup spoon. You wake up
Then first light will perforate
yesterday’s smoke, and all the cannons
of morning will be aimed at you.
How is the conclusion supposed
to assert itself if nothing
Already this flippant
cardinal swims past,
and it is hard not to be bossed
by such color. Then dilettante
afternoon comes on.
Once more it has to regale
you with green gowns. This cardinal,
deposed king of your
attention, its name secondary
to how it fills the horizon
with speck red, undermining
all thought, unwrenching
summer. It is simply the bird
you know, having surveilled
it in children’s books.
Say that it is desperate, this bird.
Greasepaint at once seen and
disabling you from seeing.
What else is there?
You remember the time, driving
home in a rainstorm, that
you turned on Duval Street.
Nude women—six, maybe—
went galloping through
the road. The milk of your headlights
ran them over. On their faces,
you could see desperation in
the prank. What else is a
rhododendron if not that?
What else is a strawberry? Summer
makes its defibrillated noise—
locusts bubbling like
a sieve in the air. So much
entertainment has been
loosed on the world. The cardinal
is known down to the last
minor flamboyance, its wings
burlapped, its wings iced
with beige. They mean
It is not enough to have his idea.
The idea necessitates
his minute hand, which is
sheet. And the sheet goes invisible
in his rain, the grease under
his hamburger. You almost recognize
yourself. Only here, it is all
made certain by the
envy behind it like in a
blood orange. Outside, the men
speak hacksaw French.
If only you could paraphrase
how his yellows are. Spread flat
on your bed some eighteenth
century map of
Saint Kitts. What else is there
but ornamentation? My beard like
wheat. Like how the
cabbage palms seem unevenly hacked
When I think of what I am, I see only
an empty hammock on
a beach. Then life breaks in.
From the other room I hear
our precocious children. How a tantrum
clears the air.