Stanzas from an untitled poem

 

And her
red-eyed captain
won’t knock off at night. My
handkerchief may be the only person
looking

after
her. She dipped it
in her glass with a bashful
sort of contempt: Here, sir, holding
the wet

corner
to me, what’s that
for
? said she. Threats cannot move
her. The stars look as though they can’t
stand each

other
yet want to suck
each other off. They have
that nasty, rotten quality
some folks

 

 

 

like in
their sex star—a
virtual mondegreen of
“who’d borrow a kid” and the
night rate.

Plus, the
gathering crowd
would dissemble with them—they
stand on stools to gape, a people
I don’t

know much
about, the strange
children would fail and be
afraid out of their prisons and
succumb.

Every
day they wind their
funnels open and shut
until finally they overwind
them right

into
October. As
they do they become
monosyllabic, like forest
rangers,

 

 

 

putting
on that look of
wholesome obscenity.
Yeah, they’re creeps, juicy pieces of
eating

stuff in
their prime, but don’t
worry, we won’t make you
do things you don’t want to. And we
have some

new meds
to keep it safe:
blood-boilers. I gave him
a taste, just a wee little dab—
why, sir,

it’s your
eye that worries
me—it’s big as a door!
(And don’t go round counting people,
they can

 

 

 

tell when
you’re doing that.
He hands me a list of
Latin secrets from the sick
barrack

and says,
You can’t be yelled
at by a tree—under
it, yes, but the tree can’t help it.
Oh, peek-

a-boo
heart what would I
trade you for? Moldy clothes
for seven planks? The reason I’m
shy of

objects
is because I
like them. Old tools and such.
Come on in here where we can get
it good.

 

Contributor

Daniel Tiffany

Daniel Tiffany is the author of ten books of poetry and literary criticism. The stanzas published here are drawn from a book-length poem composed in syllabics, which writes through The Book of Margery Kempe (the first autobiography in the English language), dictated by an illiterate fourteenth-century mystic. Additional stanzas from the poem will be appearing in BOMB, Iowa Review, FENCE, Colorado Review, The Tiny, Journal of Poetics Research (Australia), Flash Cove (Australia), Iowa Review, VOLT, Horsethief, Denver Quarterly, New American Writing, West Branch, and Bennington Review.

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