Tuesday, May 01, 2001

Poetry Clinic: The May King

First of the month means two things here at the House of Fear—firstly, that the rent’s due; and secondly, that it’s time to check this month’s patient into the Poetry Clinic. You know the drill: each month I put a piece of writing from my notebooks both onto this blog and The Underground, and y’all come and tear it to shreds.

I’m never sure how much comment or background I should include with these things: somewhere in the back of my head I feel that the only worthwhile poem is one that explains itself on its own terms, that defines its context within the body of the poem itself, that doesn’t require a page of footnotes—but at the same time isn’t ham-handed and obvious. Writing poetry is like writing a mystery novel—you want the audience to feel intelligent, but not to patronize them; there’s a fine line between giving them fair clues and telegraphing the solution. Give ‘em something to figure out, some connections to make—but best if it’s something they can figure out, leastways without the aid of a fucking guidebook.

Anywez: May Day should be a time for political commentary, but I’m pretty disgusted with all sides of politics and protest lately: so, instead, this...

The May King

In cherry blossoms rapt and stinking of semen,
serenaded by spring peepers and by birds at last returned,
I am collecting in the grooves of my big boots
black mud to track into the kitchen;
King of the May in denim hung, a knife in my jeans
and the taste of rain-to-come in my nose and mouth.
The cool night wind stirs the hairs of my armpits
as I walk in grass once again green,
in lawns given over to thyme and mint and onions,
in proud unruly brambles, among splintered wreckage
of windblown evergreen; mangled erector-set skyscraper
brought down by April snows.

Ankle deep in fecund loam,
shaking the bowl that bears the garbage
into the microbial heat of the compost heap,

I am the drenching storm that drops
buckets out of nowhere,
the drowned worms on the sidewalk;
the fresh plantings in the graveyard;
the fat furry bee bumbling
through the open window, his flight
still slow and logy, the sleep of winter
still fogging his many-lobed eyes.

For a moment I leave
the lights of the house at my back
and let my shadow fall
forward across the Summer months to come.

The moment passes;
then, his passage lit by fireflies,
the May King turns
to embrace
the works of Man once more.

for Shannon Quinn

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