57: coma, interlude 5


all readers and listeners have heard
the moralist moral away on one
of one hundred favorite lessons
and conditions, which may be true,
untrue, fabricated, or conjectured,
and all readers and listeners will
set their timers and wait for news
to come of the moralist’s fall,
shriveling before the videotape
of failed sobriety, while weaving homeward
from their speech declaiming
the horrors of drink.

i read once about the moralist
who, upon exiting the illicit house,
found her ride there on the curb
raised on cinder blocks, and, oh,
how the truths did aggregate in the papers.

one must ether sensor the tongue,
which is a form of knife use,
false self-mutilation;
or one can declare their space
in their measure of the schemes
of things and hope for the best.

my father gave me this quote
over the phone, adventuring lettered recollections:

. . . Surely

the valleys of his footprints
gully the soil where he has been,
leave a mark that forms beneath

the skin of the planet like a bruise.

which is, I said, a form of evidence
of passage over, through, between or toward,
a form of indirection, false valleys and foot marks,
a false skin, no matter, somewhere
in there is evidence of a mistake made,
some malfeasance soon for blaming
not on a blind spot but on some
other power observed only in a memory
of books.

what was his evidence of love who claimed
he loved those he feared or hated;
what was her evidence of care for the naked needy
she watched with distaste from some river’s shore;
what was his evidence of claim
against those from whom he would soon request
remittance or interest or banishment?

we must, one hypocrite says, bring them
into the flock so that they may bleat
like me; we must chop their feet to size
so that they may enjoy my shoe size;
we must teach them the art of belief
because they must enjoy
(if only they knew) my own
measure of comfort
for if I and the unbeliever
were vatted in some airless tank,
’tis I who will learn to breathe,
the other suffocate;
and on the moon’d streets, the unbeliever
diminishes the star light
my skin absorbs,
and I must make their tongues
bleed because the bitterness
in my mouth is hard to swallow.

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