|Joseph Millar [Dodge Poetry Program]|
Ode to the Ear
This one’s for you, winged skull-blossom
opening into the world, for the gold post held
in your fleshy lobe, for the ledges of blood
swollen inward. Here’s
to the whirling sounds of the wind
spilling the dead crape-myrtle leaves
over the hedgerow and garden.
I heard the clock tower’s
thick tones reach
into the blue void of Sunday
where I faltered, thinking of winter,
the past with its sunset-rouged face,
its décolletage and long opera gloves,
absinthe and tap water, fireplace
and roof gable, French doors
shedding the rain.
Why should it bring such comfort,
listening to typing in the next room,
the lost notes gathered and tended?
The right ear faces up in the darkness,
here’s to its fluids and delicate tympani,
here’s to its waxes and hairs,
helpless to close out this rhythmic tapping
it listens and hears and believes.
. . . What was the song she sang,
the sea lion asleep on a rock
near Point Reyes?
I hear the deep halls of water
filling up on the ebb
as she turns over, sighing into the algae,
slides back into the tide.
I squatted still in the autumn sand
thinking of red roe and black hair,
women gone down into themselves,
croaking and thrashing
eyes staring blind as glass. . . .
In the green dream of spring
I stretch myself out
letting the gray mist hide me
shoving my nose in the garbage pile
chewing egg shells and cheese rinds.
I swallow cellophane, I swallow cat hair,
butcher paper stained dark with fish blood
and run grinning through the blowsy woods
smelling the riverbank’s plasma —
I smell the barns and the city dump,
the quail asleep in the tall grass.
In the morning the doctors send over
my lab results: triglycerides and cholesterol,
glucose and prostate antigen,
diets of cold fruit, nuts and water.
I sign the mortgage papers,
I read the bank statement,
I pay the gas bill, I sweep the floor
then in the marshy glycemic night
I lick back the plush fur covering my lips,
I steal whatever can fit in my mouth
under the fat April moon.