Man with a Violin
There goes the man with the violin, twisting like a dreidel in the sun. You love him 'cause he carries light things and disappears when you call. Don't we love the things that disappear? Don't we love the things that twist in the sun? Don't we love the things that are almost gone?
I brought my weight to the end of the world. I gave my cello a spin in the sun. It landed on "heh," and half of me went Roman, up the golden rope to nest in the stars. The man with the violin let me down. He's sitting up there with missing lungs. He holds the gallows in his arms.
I brought you a duck, and a penguin and an owl, a platypus and an albatross. But none of these gifts had the light and the air and the twist to match just what you wanted. So I kept them for myself instead, and put them up, up on the walls, up on the walls, both sides of the hall. Then I came unto an island rude with birds. They call them South American terns. Turning around, around and around, silver like the cloak of the man with the violin. I know I saw his face; he stamped a star on me, and I felt the empty trick of the idol known as absence, I read the scripts of absence, the rot of golden ink. And my one gift to you was that I came to see him in the grey, not only came to see him in the grey, but came back again, again, despite all mistakes, to see what we were all about. I give you my mistakes.
When you offer me an octagon, I can't help it if I wobble my way in. Which wall's north? You keep on spinning them, octopus groping for your last alone. Then you're nailed by a ring of phone. You love the flakes, you love the flakes, you wanna sprawl all out. I'm in the way, you gotta kick me out. Brows start shifting with a please of go, please go. You hand me an eight-pronged umbrella for my eyes.
Rain on the heart, fever on the wait. Red door, eight clicks, and a blaze. As long as I stay squiggled, I'll feel the blaze, the molten minutes, the holy wrath. Gentle night, stay angry for a while. Don't unravel too soon into "forgive." I want to warm all my feet by the fire, O octopus. I want this to be my holiday fire, O octopus. Scarlet goldenrod, tough blue, and changes only seem; the words don't matter now, do they? Lungs rising, magnificent kites, kites, O octopus.
Dammit all, I've forgiven you, dammit all. And all those doors, name your size, I've forgiven them, pick one, won't you. The fire loses itself to the flame, to the steps, loud, louder, louder... Eight, and it's dark, eight, and it's dark, eight o'clock and it's dark, O octopus.
I hate that painting. How dare you hoist it up the ladder like a Roman with a crown? You gave her a second birth and stamped her head with a star. She's just the way you wanted, a daughter caged in your mind. The halo that spells her tells the world how great you are. They crowd around the star-cage, all marveling at you.
And if one spatter of your brush reminds me of me, I won't be afraid; I'll stare it down, till I admit to it. I won't be afraid; I'll stare it down, till I regret my ways. I won't be afraid; I'll tear it down, and then they'll drag me out.
The people look up to the goddess in the sky. They equate her with the moon, who the painter says is you. You trample on their math. They don't know who you are; the Roman will come down; the painting will come down; the painting will come down. Someday the painting will come down, someday the painting will come down. Someday, someday, someday....
When I woke up this morning, my eye first fell on the stain from the soda spill on the fringe of my Tucson-woven rug. Then I turned over and let the lids back down.
Then the frogs came over; they said, "We've swum so far, can we carry a message to your friend?"
"Yesterday I went to Kinko's and scanned some photos in, but I made a few mistakes and have to go back again, so let the lids back down."
"We'll tell that to your friend, we'll sing it all the way, 'cause the songs come scarce to frogs these days, it's hard on frogs these days."
Then I said, "Oh yeah, I had some pancakes for breakfast and threw some berries in, but spilled some of the batter and had to change my socks. The pancakes tasted great; I made enough for two and ate them myself."
Then the frogs said, "Thank you for another thing to sing, 'cause the songs come scarce to these frogs these days. It's hard on frogs these days; it's not like the river days, it's not like the river days."
"Oh yeah, just one more thing: I ran into someone I knew, and something was not right. I had a little edge, a guilt over imagined spills. I walked ahead and tripped on the cement. I thought I had hurt someone, or forgotten to do something key, or, for that matter, forgotten my keys."
Then the frogs said, "OK, but where will we swim?" Then I woke, stood up—they were made of porcelain. And I, so clumsy, so terminally clumsy, knocked them over; oh well, they never could have sung. Those porcelain frogs never would have sung.