Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. –Matthew 23:24.
Sudden as the swoop of a swallow that lifts
from grass at once: it comes,
flash of white under-feathers in sun.
You have to follow its path,
watch the landing and scribble down
the thumping in your throat.
Later, you find where swallow began:
its tiny muscles of flight
that link in our mouths to Philomel,
Puffer fish, blood of Christ—
not the sugar-fed metaphor
you sip from a goblet, no,
metal and salt, tasted from the brow.
Fact is you swallow the lure,
hook and cackle—projected self,
protected— and learn your part
so well words rise from the low gullet
before you can wish them off.
A single tire bobs in a river
near where it disappears
under limestone, swallowed by earth;
Job stands next to a pit
he can’t see the bottom of. He tried
to force the camel down:
fur, femur, and teeth. And all the drunks
in your family—they thought
swallowing seven mugs each night
a way to forget what came next;
they forgot it all enters the blood:
blue eyes, two webbed toes.
Then there is the Black Swallower
prowling for fish as big
as itself, which it downs by opening
a hinge and crawling along
the prey with teeth. It does the thing
that stretches ribs to their splitting.