Parable of the Plants
Fierce, what movement hides from me:
the arboretum growing wild, late October
flourish of scarlet leaves and water lilies,
sunlight a tapping of bees on the windowpane
that will later become scratching, then lattices of ice,
and finally smoke consoling me in whispers
that incite children to sleep or to tantrum.
May I live opening every breath
to ceaseless undertow, to seedlings
shat from knotted guts and to showers
that soak all of them equally despite
their capacity to absorb moisture,
rain that like a muted horn saturates
the listener before he is aware
with grace notes and casual improvisations.
Today I woke afraid again and remembered
my vow to stillness and what running felt like.
When she woke me at 5am saying
chest pains the skin of the world fruit
slipped off and I saw its pulpy flesh,
and beneath that the pit’s surface
wrinkled like a brain.
We drove to the E.R. past shattered glass
of excesses’ ghost ships, greasy wax paper
sliming the sidewalks and a pair of silver shoes
dangling from a wire above, the slender feet
once inside them somewhere naked.
She shivers in the passenger seat,
an electrical storm in her ribcage,
vessels clamped to muscle, hooked
to jumper cables running current strung
between us invisibly and from the outside in,
from the beery stench of sequin skirts
that dredge up light, from alleys where
streamers of foam dissolve like acid crystals
encrusting battery terminals doused
with soda. We speed.
Many gates to pass through, many screens
separate the living consciousness of suffering
from cessation, so many I imagine death exists
only as this endless succession of close ups,
black tape on the floor marking where we stand.
First, through hospital security,
my Celtic dragon belt buckle
into the bin, then the front desk
where the nurse’s face assumes
the trained expression of emergency,
through this gate to the next,
both hands grasping my arm into triage,
a chop shop where the injured sprawl in gowns.
What is the opposite of luxury? Penance?
She’s taken to a bed, wired to monitors.
Blur to white, haze of motion off camera, voices.
All of it scripted, so I plant my boots over the Xs
taped to the floor when she tells the doctor miscarriage,
last week, yes, my first. Voided now, space
between the bones, pulp and blood and tissue
expelled from the center where everything is born.
Finally, past the last gate the secret passage
from mind to body and back again,
form and emptiness cycling mercilessly
in this world, ripe fruit.
My Father’s Death Threats
My father receives death threats
from ex-clients, convicts
squirming inside the wormy bags
of their sentences, suspended
on branches, wrapped in the grey
spidery weave of spawning eggs.
His Colt .38 snoozes beside his ribs.
My father floats on the finely tuned
suspension of the green Lincoln
he bought on craigslist, driving
with me to Delaware to meet the seller.
Embossed on the dash in gold script,
the Jack Nicklaus edition.
Jack in the box: wind the handle and watch
the ghoulish clown spring forth,
turning the key as though driving
was a stroll across expansive greens,
each swing greeted by applause.
Now ice tea melts in his Big Gulp cup,
his sobriety secured by blackened struts
of trees blanketed by snow, roots sealed
beneath layers of ice.
They search for him, wolves
whose voices I cannot hear,
leaving messages. I could look
for them, as in films where
the character chalks his eyes with kohl,
adorns himself with heavy metal.
But to avenge threats is to chase smoke
or inhale helium, high on distortion
and squealing. He once told me
you’re not so big I can’t shoot you,
I one of those who’d come to kill
him, to slip a cord around his throat
or bash his skull as he dozed
in his recliner, bone shards splattering
the glossy death masks of smiling centerfolds
spreading their legs beneath his chair.
They whisper they’ll kill him
and his children, hoarse growls
muffled by prison phone lines.
Could I lure them away, shave my beard
and wear my father’s cheap suits
to court, fool the judge and plead cases?
And after jailers with cuff keys freed
my client, could I cruise away
in my Jack Nicklaus Lincoln,
spared by his assassins?