Self-Portrait of the Artist in His Studio, Thomas Hovenden
The summer I read all of Molière I was already
sick of ear candy, I disbelieved in earnestness, I was
crumpled in my own fist of crown jewels
as a gruesome baby in Lin Biao’s line
of work. The Chinese communists are all dead.
In my time no one knew what existed in Mozambique.
Even now my mouse ear is tuned to percussion.
You were penciled in as stepbrother
just when the evangelists arrived at the doorstep
speaking of Cremona as the home of Stradivari.
Or am I thinking of the chatoyant Jehovah’s
Witnesses at our Queens apartment, back in the
blizzard of ’83, when we went all gnostic and vain,
like Melina Mercouri’s pump gun?
I keep coming back to the rhizomorph as the style
least suited to my form of cancer. Memories
are never recollected verbatim, at least not
in my case. What stems from having a prolonged
spell of kindheartedness is loss of suzerainty.
You play one practical joke after another in your
years of innocence, lulled by satiety.
I lived in California as satellite television. In Massachusetts
as juggernaut from Julliard. In Texas as oversubscribed
promethium. And there were many forgotten places
along the way, in each one of which the subculture
I inhabited was of my own making, stylized
for irradiance, hardened in frugality, degressive
according to the cosmological argument of the moment.
But there is only one place I have ever truly lived.
Once in Corvallis, as the bees sang evidence,
and forked lightning illumined hectic dead Bibles,
I gave you my octopus hand, proletarian
in my recapitulation, and I asked you to take care
of the streetlights, extend the synchronized night,
and try to think of me as diamondback terrapin.