Shake the Superflux!

David Lehman

 
I like walking on streets as black and wet as this one
now, at two in the solemnly musical morning, when everyone else
in this town emptied of Lestrygonians and Lotus-eaters
is asleep or trying or worrying why
they aren't asleep, while unknown to them Ulysses walks
into the shabby apartment I live in, humming and feeling
happy with the avant-garde weather we're having,
the winds (a fugue for flute and oboe) pouring
into the windows which I left open although
I live on the ground floor and there have been
two burglaries on my block already this week,
do I quickly take a look to see
if the valuables are missing? No, that is I can't,
it's an epistemological quandary: what I consider
valuable, would they? Who are they, anyway? I'd answer that
with speculations based on newspaper accounts if I were
Donald E. Westlake, whose novels I'm hooked on, but
this first cigarette after twenty-four hours
of abstinence tastes so good it makes me want
to include it in my catalogue of pleasures
designed to hide the ugliness or sweep it away
the way the violent overflow of rain over cliffs
cleans the sewers and drains of Ithaca
whose waterfalls head my list, followed by
crudites of carrots and beets, roots and all,
with rained-on radishes, too beautiful to eat,
and the pure pleasure of talking, talking and not knowing
where the talk will lead, but willing to take my chances.
Furthermore I shall enumerate some varieties of tulips
(Bacchus, Tantalus, Dardanelles) and other flowers
with names that have a life of their own (Love Lies Bleeding,
Dwarf Blue Bedding, Burning Bush, Torch Lily, Narcissus).
Mostly, as I've implied, it's the names of things
that count; still, sometimes I wonder and, wondering, find
the path of least resistance, the earth's orbit
around the sun's delirious clarity. Once you sniff
the aphrodisiac of disaster, you know: there's no reason
for the anxiety--or for expecting to be free of it;
try telling Franz Kafka he has no reason to feel guilty;
or so I say to well-meaning mongers of common sense.
They way I figure, you start with the names
which are keys and then you throw them away
and learn to love the locked rooms, with or without
corpses inside, riddles to unravel, emptiness to possess,
a woman to wake up with a kiss (who is she?
no one knows) who begs your forgiveness (for what?
you cannot know) and then, in the authoritative tone
of one who has weathered the storm of his exile, orders you
to put up your hands and beg the rain to continue
as if it were in your power. And it is,
I feel it with each drop. I am standing
outside at the window, looking in on myself
writing these words, feeling what wretches feel, just
as the doctor ordered. And that's what I plan to do,
what the storm I was caught in reminded me to do,
to shake the superflux, distribute my appetite, fast
without so much as a glass of water, and love
each bite I haven't taken. I shall become the romantic poet
whose coat of many colors smeared
with blood, like a butcher's apron, left
in the sacred pit or brought back to my father
to confirm my death, confirms my new life
instead, an alien prince of dungeons and dreams
who sheds the disguise people recognize him by
to reveal himself to his true brothers at last
in the silence that stuns before joy descends, like rain.
 
From An Alternative to Speech, published by Princeton University Press. Copyright © 1986 by David Lehman. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Poems by This Author

08/22/08 by David Lehman
Today in 1862
A Little History by David Lehman
Some people find out they are Jews.
A Quick One Before I Go by David Lehman
There comes a time in every man's life
Autumn Evening by David Lehman
The yellow pears hang in the lake
French Movie by David Lehman
I was in a French movie
Operation Memory by David Lehman
We were smoking some of this knockout weed when
Postscript by David Lehman
He wrote the whole novel in his head
Sexism by David Lehman
The happiest moment in a woman's life
The Difference Between Pepsi and Coke by David Lehman
Can't swim; uses credit cards and pills to combat
To the Author of Glare by David Lehman
There comes a time when the story turns into twenty
When a Woman Loves a Man by David Lehman
When she says margarita she means daiquiri
With Tenure by David Lehman
If Ezra Pound were alive today


Further Reading

Poems about Flowers
Littlefoot, 19, [This is the bird hour]
by Charles Wright
Still Another Day: I
by Pablo Neruda
A January Dandelion
by George Marion McClellan
A Red, Red Rose
by Robert Burns
a woman had placed
by Anne Blonstein
Advice to a Prophet
by Richard Wilbur
Ah! Sunflower
by William Blake
Asphodel, That Greeny Flower [excerpt]
by William Carlos Williams
Astigmatism
by Amy Lowell
At Baia
by H. D.
Blur
by Andrew Hudgins
Botanica
by Eve Alexandra
Bulb Planting Time
by Edgar Guest
Come Slowly—Eden (211)
by Emily Dickinson
Epitaph X
by Thomas Heise
Erotic Energy
by Chase Twichell
Evening Primrose
by Amy Greacen
Far and Away [excerpt]
by Fanny Howe
Follies
by Carl Sandburg
Forced Bloom
by David Baker
Four Poems for Robin
by Gary Snyder
From Blossoms
by Li-Young Lee
Girl
by Eve Alexandra
Herb Garden
by Timothy Steele
In April
by James Hearst
Iris
by David St. John
La Belle Dame Sans Merci
by John Keats
La Chalupa, the Boat
by Jean Valentine
Last Supper
by Charles Wright
Little Lion Face
by May Swenson
Meister Eckhart's Sermon on Flowers and the Philosopher's Reply
by J. Michael Martinez
Nothing But Death
by Pablo Neruda
Nothing Stays Put
by Amy Clampitt
Nothing to Save
by D. H. Lawrence
Ode to a Flower in Casarsa
by Pier Paolo Pasolini
On Arranging a Bowl of Violets
by Grace Hazard Conkling
One Flower
by Jack Kerouac
Permanence
by Denise Duhamel
Poem
by John Gray
Poppies on the Wheat
by Helen Hunt Jackson
Practice
by Ellen Bryant Voigt
Queen-Anne's-Lace
by William Carlos Williams
Sea Rose
by H. D.
See How the Roses Burn!
by Hafiz
Solstice
by Ellen Dudley
Songs of a Girl
by Mary Carolyn Davies
Sonnet 2
by Gwendolyn Bennett
Taken Up
by Charles Martin
The Dandelion
by Vachel Lindsay
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
by Dylan Thomas
The Gardenia
by Cornelius Eady
The Guarded Wound
by Adelaide Crapsey
The Métier of Blossoming
by Denise Levertov
The Mountain Cemetery
by Edgar Bowers
The Orchid Flower
by Sam Hamill
The Picture of Little T. C. in a Prospect of Flowers
by Andrew Marvell
The Satyr's Heart
by Brigit Pegeen Kelly
The Violet
by Jane Taylor
The White Rose
by John Boyle O'Reilly
The Wild Honeysuckle
by Philip Freneau
To Dorothy
by Marvin Bell
To Earthward
by Robert Frost
To My Mother Waiting on 10/01/54
by Teresa Carson
Why Regret?
by Galway Kinnell
Wildflower
by Stanley Plumly
Wildwood Flower
by Kathryn Stripling Byer
Without a Philosophy
by Elizabeth Morgan