The Meat Stall
The head of a heifer,
half-skinned, nose still wet,
swine hooves, bowl of lard,
innards and sausage draped
over a barrel next to flanks,
a hogshead, fish and cocks
gashed, limp on wicker.
Three apertures beyond the flesh:
the prodigal son—hunched over
a well bucket, chain taut—pouring
into a jug, black and red surrounded
by clam shells and sand, the open air
mead behind, red-faced peasants frothing.
In the center the virgin hands alms
to a child, bowl outstretched,
line of faithful flanking them,
trees bowed for her passing,
and beneath the ill-used token,
a blue arbor, a path, a river
leading off, no man or woman in sight.
Who knows if I could run the joint the way
I do now. If I owned it I’d make exceptions:
Someone else would jostle and chase
ganja punks from where they splintered the cues,
someone else would work from five to two
every weekend so their wife gives up and moves
back to her Jersey hometown in a huff,
and that someone else could learn how to angle
a two-nine combo for the county nine-ball win,
only to lose the set on slop shots and luck banks.
The punks must think I’m some washed up vet
dragging his duffel bag heart through the blue smoke.
Every year it’s the same swagger, although we still
don’t serve booze, and if you gamble you leave.
It’s still the same strut, young gel-heads with
If the neighborhood cleanup committee wants to bust
crime, they’d put a stomp on swagger.
I go home and flip on the news and nurse
a long beer. I sit in the dark. Colors in rapid fire.
Around four I fall asleep, shaking it off like dandruff,
like dead skin, to the sound of TV gunfire and helicopter fuzz.
What it was: pebbles lobbed from the crag
above Main Street, chinking the windshields,
terns minus the swoop and flutter.
What it was: carving creek bed rubble into badges
among the discarded refrigerator, hub caps,
rusted beet cans, bottles of Beefeater.
Nine and two years past the hornet swarm,
a sham and stealth bid me from
wallpaper, pillows, whorls of spider webs.
Now lace my galoshes, roll up the cuffs:
flashlight through the drainage tunnel as
far as you can go, cursive, kiss and milk.
What it was: climbing the precipice over Main Street,
thist of pants against pants, reaching the pinnacle
and overlooking the hills, shops, gables, the steeples above.
Red starburst in neon, road humped
in viaducts and cracked double lines:
I drive on, your hair seething
in the wind, and you sleep.
My stomach snarls; I consider
turning back, but don’t.
We’d like to make our mark,
I think. This tablet land.
Red starburst in neon, humped road,
ivy strewn viaduct, cracked lines:
You mumble; I close the window.
“Your faith in me is damp,”
you said once; I watch your lids
twitter. You are my eternal host.
Red starburst, neon, road in humps.
Crumbling viaduct, lines cleaved:
What I would give for a sign.
My cheek droops to my chin.
You turn your back to me,
a billboard. I’d like to,
but I must drive.
Where are we going?
Neon, red, bursting, humps,
mound of stones, phantom lines:
You leach into the seat, a stain,
a wake of worming hair strands.
I tried to tell you I’m helpless,
a missile in full orbit: love elsewhere.