it ain’t the heat
he says. Who’d disagree? The air
is ripe with possibility.
Dog breath. Stale beer. His own sour flesh.
He rubs his brow on a damp sleeve
then heaves a plastic tub over
the tailgate. Dab and amberjack,
sea robin, grunt. His belly falls
over his belt like a slow surge
of summer light.
Where is our native genius in
all this? Where is Lawrence’s “clean”
desert? And where the clarity
of a landscape made of single
grains of sand? The rhythms and the
rhymes of excess haunt the larder
of American poetics.
Later, propped on his own back stoop,
he shucks fish viscera on spread
pages of the Boston Herald.
They rustle like a field of corn
on whose horizon a picture
snapped in the Holy Land last night
catches his eye: a city bus
blown inside out, still smoldering.
A few survivors turn their blank
eyes to the camera. No one
speaks. Only the disembodied
narrator drones on about the
victims and their families and
a stranger in a tweed coat stitched
with pipe-bombs and arid motives.
At this distance, what is there to say?
How can he feel, high in the nose,
the acrid loss, the blasphemous
reek of burnt flesh? His own flesh melts
in the day’s swelter and lapses
back into life. The thick air rolls
a salty word on its tongue, then
slowly, smacking its lips, swallows.