You are openhanded. Of course you are openhanded.
Yours is a more civilized hand than Gods,
a softer hand, a slower hand.
And your mouth discloses the first great secret of the world.
I cannot hear it. It
is a secret for your mistresses and your four wives,
and for your mistresses and your four wives only.
The child will learn it on his own. You may edify him
this way, you may make a lesson out of it
though I will learn close to nothing.
Perhaps how to make my expressions less vacuous,
my hands softer and more civilized,
my tongue-pallet the purer.
Hand me that Madeira and I will tell you
RUBBER TIRES FOR TANNIN! How perfectly
the aftertaste traipses its tails and trains along behind it,
thick, yes, but gone in the creases.
God watches from the library room, envious
and with locusts.
You sat once,
forgetting my seminars with your mother,
and said IF GOD HAD BIOGRAPHY,
WE COULD ABASE HIM.
In collecting yours, I did that one better.
That: second secret.
That: riddling, dull sepia on the mantles,
the console tables with crystals full of lozenges,
the walls, the walls,
This is how I know you: smiling with sisters,
smiling with salesmen, smiling in general. Each of your arms
an awkward, blown up:
Classic Methodist stigmata.
Tell me, tell me Pop: what is good? What is a locust?
In the prison guard years, Mother and I are together. She sleeps
like a madwoman, and then rises, gray pall off the Atlantic, from her bed
to stand at the foot of mine, swaying an autism. The hours on end.
She comes home to kitchen drawers emptied
of kitchen knives and me,
Hitchcock-eyed at the top of the stair, playing my arms like violins.
I can tell you this, or
I can tell you I am trying my hand at propaganda,
have your pick. Know one brings locusts.
Daily, you and I participate in the communion
of eating together.
The food loves for you:
look here, how, in spite of you,
the things on our plates
fester after me like lechers,
dark apostles greasing their Caesar hair,
bleeding and seething,
potato and dough: three planetary miscoloreds,
three Dago dumpling balls
flushing out with red meat:
Ebola eye, the white one;
the pink one, lidded and sweet;
the bitter green.
we eat the marrowy flesh
of sea urchins,
the cold, orange centers
and cleanse pallets.
And now clam, and its grainy excrement, and tomato,
all made to stew.
Next, squid ink and cornmeal.
The fried crayfish babies
are to be eaten whole,
our kidneys will recover in a day.
Here is what we call sea locust; eat only one,
they are wrathful.
You have sent in the ambassadors,
all shaking their teacups at me: carpal rot nod. And a moustache
white a saltpeter, this one.
He tells me about you; he imagines you like Christ:
two idols, you, two opposites, and indistinguishable,
the monochrome organs of the body
pushing at their membranes.
And the letters, too, are thin as embassies
or embassy men. They are cold and white,
typically short men with gauzes of Italian linen
buttoned to the chest-hair, and strange Friuli hats.
I endure them like contractions,
the dull thing hooked on me
pushing through me like punishment.
I havent been living up to contract.
I must not have acknowledged you, my people must have hated you.
We are accumulating our armaments for you,
and building effigies, raising guerillas. We teach our neighbors to spell,
unravel ourselves in front of you like Madonnas, spilling out light
as if through glass.
Somewhere Viking gods are hanging from trees,
the oldest with a rotting, blue foot, falling into the bog half-masked.
The ambassadors are reeling in their element,
and you are curling lip, the dolomite around you
preserving as glacier, the husk of a locust.