My brother used to rap me on the skull
and ask, Anybody in there? Which always
seemed to me the wrong question.
There was the grass and the trees and a little
bit of a soapy reflection in the glass.
I thought: black dogs, dirty rain. I thought:
who needs their piano tuned today? All month
the streets were littered with Indian summer,
and I kept writing in my journal:
come help spray these thoughts with fertilizer.
Or reading how, at the University of St. Petersburg,
Gogol taught medieval history,
about which he knew next to nothing
so muttered unintelligibly or wrapped a black
handkerchief over his head and wouldn't say
a word. Or then Foucault's Folie Et Déraison,
Histoire de la Folie à L'âge Classique.
How the insane in the 15th century were
cast out on ships thus bringing into the language
"ship of fools." Foucault traveled all the way
from France to try LSD in Death Valley
National Park, but all I had was nineteen skulls,
my wild celibacy, an amoral sky, and an asthmatic
wheeze. Eros was gravity's sad bitch,
conjuring love out of gum wrappers and receipts
near the cart corral. The sepulcher of sliding
glass doors. The one cart with its lone
manic wheel. And then the tuning
wrench and a voice made of skull caps
and rags. Aegrescit medendo.
The clouds floating like garbage scows
in a dark sky. Each nerve ending
ready with its hazel switch. Then taking mescaline
and reading Melville: crushed thirty feet upwards,
the waters flashed for an instant like heaps
of fountains, then brokenly sank in a shower of flakes,
leaving the circling surface creamed like new milk
round the marble trunk of the whale.
And all I could think was: do the dead feel
an ache in the right upper bicuspid?
Or: hold my hand for a moment, even though
it makes you uncomfortable