NEAR NEWCASTLE, EARLY SPRING
North Fork, American River
Everywhere black butterflies
tongue drams from Blue Dick, fiddlenecks;
these insects swarm their grass-top skies.
Swallowtails, black crêpe with flecks
of orange, sapphire, soft yellow highlights,
wing softly down then straddle-stroke
their flower cups, juicier than berries
to swallowtails just as to fritillaries.
These ones can’t store like dromedaries;
they like hummingbirds must fly light,
flitting, hovering toke by toke,
drink by drink, unspooling tongues.
Freshly sable-winged, still young,
they must mind insect etiquette,
yet, here and there, two, feeling the virus
appetite, war over an iris.
Here—for that reason?—motionless,
one plainly dead yet lavishly dead,
an entirely, gloriously black wingspread,
fanned full span a last time in the grass,
one center-hinged ebony scimitar blade.
All still yet not one wing-edge frayed,
soul flown from the shape of a soul, a Psyche,
untorn ebony, victor with Nike.
Like god-preserved, ambrosial Hector
kept unearthly fresh on one breastful of nectar.
Once these dust-spreading thin legs clung
to the cupped splendor as insteps to rung,
black wings enfolding a purple-gold iris,
the note faintly Persian, timeline of Cyrus.
What sweet dust stirred by such slender legs;
how allied to the dropping of ripe live eggs?
Once met, the intensely honeyed aims,
what funeral games.
At the low-budget motel: ill-defined hubbub.
He’s lying half-in, half-out the door,
one floor above. Unclothed, or mostly. This I hear.
Him and a bunch of guys at a bar,
followed him back here.
It takes a woman who’s lived to notice, get
right on it. IPhone at slant by ear: You’ve got
to be fucking kidding, they can’t send an ambulance
until the cops come? Soonish, the cops do. Young guys.
Come EMTs, men, women; come men
in lemon vests, lemon construction hard-hats.
Much standing there. The gurney rolls out,
ascends upstairs how I know not. Returns
with stabbed man aboard—gash from side
of head to top of throat—they say—
into the maw of the ambulance,
X-shaped scissor-lift flexing beneath…
The India-born proprietor: Nineteen years
I own this property and nothing like this ever.
Why am I so slow of wit
when menace touches someone near:
unfit to rise and answer it
with action, anger? Last night, noise,
much noise. The room just over mine.
What disconnect from common poise,
the sense to call the manager?
It isn’t exactly innocence,
is it? The evil was quite clear
to someone. Who that’s innocent
hears the pounding of strong feet
through papery floors, the voice of rage
non-Spanish, non-English, but the heat
so universal it evokes the stage?
Today it seems a knife must go
into a man; the ambulance,
the white form on the gurney silent
because so pained it can shape no
lip shape for agony. No groan,
no yell, no murmur. Drained white stone,
stony witness to upshots violent.
Face, chest, feet, not wound, appear belowsheet,
not bled out, may we hope to hear.
What lines in my crude mental sketch:
one lolling head draws taut one throat,
unsoftens the tensile underchin;
this tautness beneath a mouth that twists.
What lewd horseplay was it that wrote
the drama? What drunken onset sin?
Who beat with wrongful wrists and fists?
We tensely stand, cortege at rest,
watching the terse-voiced EMTs:
narrowed eyes of Euripides.
So, rationalize: what if I’d blabbed?
The manager, intervening—stabbed?
What were the questions in this test?
We eye the near-nude poor form, at stance
not unlike parade rest or attention.
The gurney departs, not apprehension.
Funny term that, the word attention.
TO AN UNKNOWING INSTRUCTOR
All things hang like a drop of dew
Upon a blade of grass.
May our words give you your space to rejoice,
as you endowed me with a strange new voice:
inside me, hidden from you, welled oddly love.
The well was deep, salt-crusted, dark. I dove.
—Medusa, with thanks to Tom Goff for his poems and lepidopteran inspiration today!
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