That is not what I meant at all. — T.S. Eliot
The frog in the throat is language. The prince chokes up. Love always wants to croon, grunts the frog. Two weeks along, the riverbank garbles with geese. Tongue-tied the boy & tongue- twisted the girl drive one another around the bend with crazy talk. This-&-that, a tossup, Frank’s furter split slathered with Marion’s herbal verbal crisp & dicey mimsy-dressed & slithy tove relish. Two speak more than two different languages. He gives her his word, she gives him hers; they plight lifelong & lively misunderstanding. Press sources’ forky tongues slither in slick & slug out blind. Around & through the gag orders’ vowels a morning edition puts to bed muttering never to take their word for it— jargons, gorgons, magmas & fumaroles, hot mud pots blubbering up. Hebrew alphabet’s letters writhe & jitter alive, antic to infiltrate & thus to extricate themselves & one another from sense & nonsense. Aide riffles in passing the library’s Unabridged & 52896 more-or-fewer words see light of day. Not to eye or tongue or mind do they subside revealed. I’m the shrimp whisperer. Tell me something I don’t know. I settle into an area of crustacea stirring & kneel.
Groundhog Day, think spring! I hip-hop higher the snowbanks, even as the crocodiles of elsewhere flex one nostril among themselves & consider another. Surely one thing follows another on great brute feet as toes follow fingers to count for something, & here you’re a girl amounting almost to twenty & soon enough to start to sour forever, but not yet. I’ve got your shadow you don’t see covered with mine you do. Be not afraid. I’m telling you the dynasties of dinosaurs who summered along into the Cretaceous a while before they liquefied feared one another most, & likewise we fear the careers our own fellows bully us out of & into— but today we summon to honor this marmot, very rodent of timidity, harmless himself & mistaken, o mistaken, poor thing: scrambling back out of sunshine, our sorry celebrity.
Not likely to die today, hooray, for we woke together robust & zesty, & weather’s too fine today for any death, especially mine, & the empire we detest champions us collaterally in its every negligent brushoff of plump golden crumbs— Not today! — butterfly whirligigs flutter as flags squeak up their poles as the scales of justice this way & that tilt to hummingbirds’ sips at the syrupy pans, & so shall we sup our friends: silver plinth & tray of devilish eggs, a glossy lobster, herbed ox hanging out its sliced tongue, o clove- studded fist of ham.
droops defaultish at mortifyingly low interest. Not one Street wizard will bundle its worth amongst his sorriest securities. Morning shower & wince: my own steamiest mirror-image aches with ennui. Have I bottomed-out? Truly I too once hopped smart to the fire-in-the-belly, then heartburn & hiccups among the begrudges, occasional ethical upchuck— Shop sign: “Refurbisher of Zeal,” that wormy small proprietor we patronize: Sacre bleu! & as if strenuous oceanic waters slapped delta mud-flat zombie bodies awake— shiver, drip & hoist up the rest of our lives: wives- slash-hubbies, sacks, cats & kits all abandon St. Ives. Dame Nursery, she who blandished & outwitted us this far, reveals hers as the face of the real world made up entirely of apparitions. Boo: can I spook any actual thing before the corner ahead whips it around? They say a day comes I’ll not be heard of again, which I might miss getting notified in the din.
Thanks, think tanks, for the thoughts, Ophelia murmured among the pansies, & thought of the gagging pond, mud like snot, & distant whistles & twitters of minstrels having nothing better to do than each to embellish & tweak at another’s song. Practice! lied the lyre. Meticulous practice instead performed the pond-physician: attached its first- leech-best to the one patient-at-hand: exact match to Ophelia’s peculiarities, a blacker- than-usual leech, stringing out now, oozing her ear, edging her face petals. Episode: Ophelia twitches up in the drunk tank, acute water intoxication. Reconsider, the pansies advise, yourself as a vessel. Hoist to moisten lips. Sidle bodily some shifty Sahara dune to refresh the lost; raise yourself as a gourd overhead to constellate slaves’ escape. Think: disguise.
Martha Zweig’s poems are widely published in Poetry, Boston Review, The Progressive, Paris Review, and Gettysburg Review, for example. Her collections include Monkey Lightning from Tupelo Press (2010); Vinegar Bone (1999) and What Kind (2003), both published by Wesleyan University Press; and Powers (1976) a chapbook from the Vermont Arts Council. Zweig’s latest collection of poems, Get Lost, has received the 2014 Rousseau Prize and is forthcoming from The National Poetry Review Press/Dream Horse Press. She has received Hopwood and Whiting awards. Her MFA is from Warren Wilson College.