Sideshow, Coney Island
Mustachioed Mr. H. Blockhead
sports a bowler hat. Believes
he's a dandy: striped shirt (no blood bled)
& garters like waists on voluminous sleeves.
Hammer in one hand, nails in the other—
is he a carpenter? Is he building a boat to sail
or a casket, plank-by-plank? Neither:
he slams nail after bloodless nail
up his nose. Couldn't this be fatal?
As if replacing something
vital he lacks, he inhales the metal
and is healed! Or is he killing
his own fear of death, delighting in audience
gasps? Pen to page, I hear the paper wince.
Black disks spin. To revolve among revelers, I step
onto Saturn's nimbus.
Spinning gathers speed. Boys
and girls press into each other, melt
in chaperoned halls. Music swells and skips.
I… I… I
fall from a faulty
noose, plunge through a break,
plummet into melancholy's tars. Walls slam shut with the finality
of the boulder rolled against Christ's tomb.
Winding sheets tighten,
Rorschach-doves fan their muddy wings
into hands. The door to the adolescent ward
I listen for the world's distant throbbing.
Watch from safety-glass panes: faces
fracture, syringes hiss air
into veins. Coke-bottle shards carve a constellation:
Scents of ether and disinfectants.
After a shaman cauterizes patients' temples, he sprinkles medicinal words
over my head, turns screws through my soles.
Commands me to dance, vexed
by my stillness.
Far from the padlocked doors and stone wall, the dancers continue
studying New Math and a ferocity that churns
dust and ice into rings.
Classrooms slide open windows—
students tilting telescopes toward oblivion
Tat tvam Asi (Thou art That)
Loosen self from self in the sweep
of green unknowing,
branch, bark, loam. Once
there were names: mockernut,
But today my eye strays
from language, past
branches' Linear B,
past their etched crosshatching,
their Baroque cartouche,
the bronze disk
sinking into darkness.
Now, sky ignites sapphire.
to its velocity of blue,
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