Thursday, May 3, 2007

I Was Working on my Degree

The extensive grounds were thinning
After the sanitation workers ball.
My love and I were washing dishes.
Here was the most beloved plate to serve
A hand grenade all the way up from the tropics.
It deserved a wash in the town’s well.
These dishes are nudists naturally.
A painted boy from his pastoral predicament
Pleads with me to keep my rag away
From his unpainted genitals.
His singing and giggling, communing with the finches,
Bought him the brass scratcher which made him
Retreat into the dust storm. Presently, pasta.
Bad boy butter baste with a spiked collar
Knifes at the knives. Shall the spit be scrubbed,
My love? Yes, scour the spit, was her bubbly reply.
I was seething; I was soldered in sallow serape
The size of seahorses. My philosophy was simple:
The only truth is that white space
After the birth date of an author who’s still alive.
I ran across them from time to time
In my rodent form. I ran across so many things.
Like a pan of water, or the fine blade of a food
Processor, a woman’s nipple, an elephant’s sleeping eye.
I was dog-eared; I was foxed, bumped and rubbed.
The degreaser was having its effect on my spine.
The gravy boat stopped off in the tropics
To pick up more hand grenades. We were looking
For service all up the coast, our Lifebuoy sick
With dandruff. His final words were: life is draining.
Then he refused to speak, and began bobbing.
Little half-eaten cod combed his hair with their
Skeletons. I was in it up to my elbows.
This is where I decided I could make something
Of myself, something bigger – something I could feature
In the dining room. So I began to serve myself little scraps.
My love was all for it: she smiled behind her spume facial.
Sanitation workers with respirators reported just then.
They toted zippered trash bags of the blackest material,
And I began to graduate into one just as their hands
Made sure I was included with the cracked glassware.
It was like eternal night, only I couldn’t get a cigarette
From the dockworkers, who were fireflies.
There were no dockworkers! There were only night crawlers,
The kind in fishnet stockings, who proposed to me
Like I was a courageous sea captain on the Atlantic. But I was done
With all that, and instead began to matriculate
Into my cake pan. I could have been baked,
But with so many mouths in my batter,
I couldn’t rise toward heaven long enough to make
A dent in universal hunger, especially my own.
The dishes, meanwhile, were hovering around the kitchen.
I’ve had enough, I said, and immediately sent for a robot.
When the boxes came, it was all in parts, but still alive.
It insisted that another robot be dispatched for his assembly.
I agreed with its sound reasoning and logic.
When the new robot arrived, it was also in parts, but it had read
A physics textbook. “Advanced physics,” it kept correcting me.
Soon my world was walpoled with unassembled robots
Lecturing me about particles – what does it matter? I asked.
If you knew a thing or three, we would be ambulatory,
They said. I am not religious, I kept insisting, and bashing
Myself on the head for letting them boss me around.
They told of great dunes of ash taking on human form
After being assembled by the wind. All of this happened
On the other side. The other side of what? I asked.
Of the argument, which is wordless and gray, they said.
I better get back to those dishes. My love was now an old
Potter who kept throwing her back out.
I began to clean with no mind, like they do in temples.
I washed my bowl until I reduced it to the cellular level.
There was no future in soup anyway, I rationalized.
The sanitation workers kept putting wedding rings on hotdogs
And eating their gloves. Just when I got everything sparkling,
Another catastrophe would jeopardize the famous quiz show,
And potato chips that one could not prove existed nonetheless
Left grease stains on the platters. I decided to wax my love’s
Shoulder blades, but she was glazed from hunger.
I crumpled up my apron, took off my mitts, and danced
A jig through the swinging, western-style doors
That divided the kitchen from the patrons, who only became
Visible when they inhaled their cigars, the kind that burn forever,
But only smoked when you sucked on them.
The dishes stretched between heaven and hell,
But I didn’t care. I was hitting the pavement with my fists,
Leaving the industrial center for some other place,
Which was sure to become a center when I arrived to judge it.

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