Wednesday, February 25, 2009



It’s not that I don’t believe, or never did, or can’t again,
in the tumescent red fable of Santa Claus, exploding
from the mythic chimney we never had, and it’s not
that I was never a child who half-shivered in sleep
the night before the now creepy home invasion
of the Easter Bunny, mute and anthropomorphic
and egg laden and sugar floured, and I confess all
the enmity I ever kept for my milk teeth,
hoping to shed them one by one by one,
to peer for a while at their weird, blood-flecked roots
before hiding them beneath my head
for a fairy engaged in economies
I wish I could grasp. It’s not that I don’t believe in,
of all things, love, because I do
with the bruised zeal of falling objects.
Or fear, though last night I waited
for you or for the storm to rip away this roof
and there were times when
it was easy to imagine everything
peeling away, gone into the rattling night,
dropping into a field with cows
on their knees in the darkness,
all the clover turned ink by an absent moon.
Though I am not proud, I’ve laughed
at the pain of others, who stumbled
in the parking lots of grocery stores,
cans of rolled biscuit dough exploding
with surprising force on the asphalt,
and though I wished them an instant invisibility,
still I watched and watched. But,
what could I do, when helped to stand
in another lot, beside another car,
a wheelchair unfolded behind me, waiting,
what could I say to the man
who asked if we needed help
and, looking down, I could see my pants
crumpled about my ankles,
how like a dark flag of shame they were then,
in summer, the sun on my skin
and all the eyes of passing consumers,
that title we should despise
but don’t. What could I say but yes
or no or that it hardly mattered
if I couldn’t feel the difference anyway?
And that was a pain, but his,
added to all the rest, soon forgotten
or ignored or left to pretense—
it’s not that I don’t believe
in the sour thrum of shame
or that my face has never turned to blood
or believed in a lie
so desperately that eventual truth was almost lethal.
I have, I have, so help me,
I have.


fredwrite said...

Even though you haven't posted in a while, this poem was worth waiting for. I've read it five times now, and it pulls me deeper each time through-- from "blood-flecked roots" to "if I couldn't feel the difference anyway". Thanks for letting us feel the twisted power than runs through your life.

Keith said...

Damn. This is a great one.

Deanna Larson said...

Hello Paul: found your blog via Mark Doty. Just read Agnosia and was stunned. This is an incredible poem. I want to hear you read it (I live near Austin Peay, I'm so sorry I missed your reading), then I want to hear Garrison Keillor read it. Is this so wrong?!

Sandra said...

I have too

Maggie May said...

it builds and then kills. awesome.