Whether to answer the ringing, the whispering. One way or another, the bumps crawl up my arms when I clean the gutters, if you call that living. Despite textbook responses, she is far from home. The soul is a dog retaining everything, giving itself away at the least touch, like all made things. I bathe those ear sores and hip sores. A mosquito floats in this darkened room. If I think of having a soul, even the dog is bitten. I spray lanolin on his flank, in his armpit, on the split scabs around his anus. He licks my face. The bees are dead, the garden is broken, the washer leaks, the summer place with toasted buttered buns is closed and I am a plagiarist. Lights get doused by crickets, the bean-wings eaten by does.
The jaw on the floor has red handles. I oiled its semicircular teeth and turned a black ring into water. I deserved, I thought, a long and wishful nap in my extremely comfortable chair. A better grade of tape was what that pipe needed, the other bearded man joked, a good one. My military flashlight bends like an elbow and has a compartment filled with filters and diffusers. The floors are cold on my knees. The enemy were beaten back at dawn along the flank by a single platoon the sergeant commanded. Maybe it has something to do with this broken toe I can’t lose. The children in Calcutta are taking pictures. A loud cracking noise inside my room, three times, one then one two. Perhaps a bucket of water has fallen through the sunlight. Wasn’t there something, long ago, a love letter from the prince to his mistress? I’m not well prepared to continue this indefinitely.
People die excruciatingly every second. I have a wart. Crayolas, please, the number of a chessboard. I’ve noticed how hard it is to do anything, even to prepare to do anything. To sit up straight or sharpen Midnight Blue, travel again toward love’s frontier. When the solar eclipse came, I was on the plaza. Things slowed down, were submerged in the faraway shadows of the sun. I was young. I still can notice myself there, as if I were moving the pieces around, as if that place I still dream of was a bezel I could spin clicking around my unusual hands. A pigeon landed in my hair, confused. I was drinking bourbon with John and Calvin over crushed ice. A Spanish girl walked by so beautiful they named a language after her.
Watched it is a daffodil, a yellow shadow. I will see you in an hour, I say, and leave you standing at the gold café. I will return in time, or mounting a ladder. And both of us will be sad for a moment. This or that particular café where I left you standing remains the color of a shadow in a flower. I crawl upon the surface of its mirrored sphere like a gnat upon a dead man’s eye.
Water leaks into a blue bucket. I took the tests by storm. I transplanted the elephant ears, watched joy divide. I stepped on the duckling, legs so frail in the grass. My passport, smaller than I thought it would be, joined the secret agents. My home there in the unlisted place: a boat on bricks in the water. My temptation: to start the scalding music, but then I have to hold my chewed ear. The crocuses remain vivid. I will want to play that electric piano in Amsterdam. I tap my pencil on the projector’s glass. Soft skin seems just under my fingertips. It’s cold and I can’t eat. When I was young and intelligent, and stayed up late on Friday night, I watched Uncle Joe and Johnny Carson and then something and then the national anthem would play and the signal would turn into snow. Then I could sleep. I have traveled far to say, I was here before.
Death isn’t quiet on the inside; it glistens and it churns, and I have become what I say, nine-fold as a worm. I’m almost ready to cook up something for you. The lettuces are washed and drained, but I appear to myself as limp willed. The shade got colder yesterday. The sun, too. It’s September, even here, where some backward me embers still. It occurs that I have radish seeds left from spring. I used to love you. That sounds ridiculous. I want someone to cook dinner, or to have already cooked a meal. I avoid future regret. I don’t think Julia Child ever got to be one, a child I mean, from what I’ve read. The meaning of sauce is forever changing.
Don’t look down, but I found a dime in the parking lot, a comb with many lice, and the lady in the A&P handed me the board game in a long box for free, proving some were free, like air or translucent baby mice in a lingerie drawer. I tried being nothing but light shifting down through the aspen leaves onto the doghouse. I could stick my nose under its floor from its back where the ground fell and smell turtle skulls in their stopped slowness. There was no Great Dane left. Only a Caterpillar in the sideyard that made me a Tonka driver then puffed my eyelid after copper wasps cussed from its rusted innards. Chicken and dumplings with tomatoes and cucumbers sliced into a bowl I gently threw up into the stainless kitchen sink. I watched what came out, untouched. I guessed at red doors, dead brother, the radioactive blister in the glassine envelope. Only I won. Before I go on I’m tempted to have another bowl of kitcheree smothered in Oregon, but I didn’t have the first. I lied about the dumplings, too. Mother’s chicken was fried. And in Australia, toilets don’t swirl the other way, but the ball kids do have to pick up critters from the court and the millionaires my wife.
I loved that Mrs. Lamb was fat. I was a just a whisper. Her husband drove behind her in their other car as the drunk’s eyes didn’t widen. The children rode with him. I was sitting in her classroom where the body of Melanie Wilson remained the shuddering my mouth never got to finish saying. Dylan Thomas batteried a radio in my mind, the force that through the static stitched her inner jeans in thighs I clasped inside the trailer, home room. In the creek where crawdaddies flashed backward, I wished the water I stood up in was her, pouring off but on me, her face unwounded and round as the stones I hurled to skip, whose sounds keep falling through the ice like red-haired Sammy did up to his armpits. Sometimes the ball resembles a bee. At the bridge she rolled the dirt from her palm and, showing me, asked if I did the same. I lied. In those woods lay logs whose moss no one but myself had witnessed. I named my duck Sam. No one thought this strange. A dog probably ate her. The Polaroids seemed true, if too bright in places no one was supposed to shoot. The tv had three stations until Bobby got assassinated. Then there were four, Ted Turner’s. A black microscope hunches at either end of my books where I cannot observe a million million million million million million cells. The question I continually ask my brother is, why so many bees? My cub scout uniform seemed a dark night sky with gold epaulets on my shoulders and patches over my heart, and on the hat, yellow jacket stripes gripping my head like the stingy crane at the A&P. The Tropicana rose on West Paces Ferry was vermillion, my adennoids made me a mouth-breather, and mother said I read too fast. I distrust quoters, especially ones with easily visible tattoos, as if colors or sentences could be property. If you turn an egg upside down, then where does that leave you, is one. I don’t like to go to bed, and I don’t like to get up, is another. Brad Pitt has neglected his grandmother for many years. He used to send her flowers every month and he wrote her letters ending with poems folded up without the mothballs in her linen cloth. Gout stools are making a comeback in fashionable hotels. High heels keep getting higher. No wonder, look at the price of gas or assassination via motorcycle magnet bomb. In real time, a happy shriek pierces the unseasonably warm evening. Then nothing. It’s not as if I know Brad Pitt, I only know I’ve read quite a bit about him, and that was the thing that stood out, that Brad Pitt sent his grandmother flowers. One time I sent flowers was to an infant’s funeral, a continent away and I was unable to attend. That the flowers cost a hundred and twenty-five dollars is all I choose to recall for you today. I have, I think, abandoned my own parents. I smell the wind and coming rain, rich with iron. But I’m not a dog, so the scent doesn’t mean what the world means, just that I like it, and will soon go in. The true ontological separation between my dog and myself has less to do with speech than the fact that he has never experienced cruelty, and now sometimes gets shell steak for dinner, since these are his golden years and if he slobbers on the window then good. Good boy. I wind it around my wet fingers, where it sticks and dissolves, like an almost thought. I spread it on my cuts. Dining alone is not with Lucullus, if you have to cook. These guys who own bee businesses, they claim they get stung as many as three hundred times a day. Who could stay awake, thought that man. Turnips, you see the tops swell up, when they are in the ground. There needs to be more of this, but there isn’t.
Theodore Worozbyt’s work has recently appeared or will appear soon in Antioch Review, Best American Poetry, Crazyhorse, The Iowa Review, The Mississippi Review 30 Year Anthology, New England Review, Po&sie, Poetry, Sentence, Shenandoah, The Southern Review, TriQuarterly Online, and Quarterly West.
His first book, The Dauber Wings (Dream Horse Press, 2006), won the American Poetry Journal Book Prize, and his second, Letters of Transit, won the 2007 Juniper Prize and was published by UMass Press. Scar Letters, a chapbook, is online at Beard of Bees Press. Objectless Fragments, a new chapbook, appears in the premier issue of The Chapbook.
A group of poems from Worozbyt’s first book has been translated by Michel Deguy and Richard Rand and will appear in the American Issue of Po&sie. And his newest chapbook, The City of Leaving and Forgetting, has just been accepted by Country Music.