Jeffrey Thomson

Ars Poetica with Pain

In this one, Yosemite Sam gets hung. Bugs digs
his way into the prison yard after he missed
that mythical left at Albuquerque and soon Sam’s big hat flaps
in the wind, his knee-high, shit kickers jerking in midair.
It’s not Eurydice stumbling into ecstasy up the moss-
tumbled steps, Orpheus erect before her;
it’s not Bugs smacking carrots as the fade circles down
around him and the cursive loops across the screen—
craft and the hero victorious in the common tongue.
All the strange grammars of success yield
the elastic cat who balloons back to wholeness
after being smacked with the frying pan,
or the duck that slips his bill back across his jaw
after eating a load of buckshot. Never the scene
when Elmer Fudd blotches his crotch with piss
when Bugs readies to take his kneecaps
with his own shotgun. In this one, Eurydice
chews on a worm of pain that sounds like farewell
to Orpheus, untuned to the choral music of Hell
and Orpheus’ head, cast aside, floats forever singing.
In this one, the Thracian women toss the broken lyre,
mangled as a smashed racket, into the fire and smile
as smoke ropes up around their throats
and the strings hiss and curl into ampersands.

Jeffrey Thomson
Ars Poetica with Pain is from the forthcoming collection Bird Watching in Wartime (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2009).