I can’t just be tracking the lapses,
those marginals about to leap from the ledge,
falling leaves as symptoms, those late at night
knifepoint takeovers – leaving out
the feathery transient random pedestrian
melodies, some centuries old, whole symphonies
that still stir that stew of fantasy and biology,
somewhere inside the calliope we call a body.
And what is it about being naked, for example,
that made Whitman crazy, made him a peacock display
of self-pleasure? And why can I see him ghostly
on the ferry rubbing against strangers
who think his touch unintentional, not meant
for them, when Meant for’s but a mantra: you can hear
Methodist hymnals inside it: they’re looking for a property
beside the gravesite they’re entitled to, to save them
from this mindful business, when all those other tenses –
those jobs and scratches and promises and bruises –
flake away like rust on the barge just before it’s re-painted:
so we must go out to sea, the boundless, bountiful sea
of old literatures, with which we imbue the water imagery –
I say imbue because I write for myself and strangers.
I try to shape my strangeness with speed and gravity
and the confusion you uncover just getting to unknow yourself,
the part that’s celibate and monk-like, without the flies around it.
Lapses first appeared in The American Poetry Review.