Charles?

January 31, 2010

I mean, it felt like I was a dead fish
Or something, left to rot out there in the sun,
Left there on purpose, you know, like it was
A threat—and Charles, it stinks—you know that?—
—the stench of all those old thoughts—
Yeah, thoughts…you know,
Like guppies maybe, sturgeon, or flounder.
You laugh? Why? Fish can think, can’t they? They flounder.
Suppose as we grow old the ancient thoughts
Appear as songs a child might sing—sotto voce.
Suppose they’re like the masks the actors wore
In some Commedia dell’Arte farce,
Or like the web a spider strings across
A road, hidden, dark, all subtle tension,
The strands still wet with the coagulate air…
Too wet to breath, Charles, way too wet.

There’s more. Suppose a face inside that mask
Looks back, looks out. Suppose the rings run circles round
The eyes, for fear. Suppose it’s an old face of yours,
Charles, smiling too, with all that sullen pride
You once were so capable of…so proud.
This is not the Lone Ranger, kimosabi.
Not Zorro either. Man is least himself
When he talks in his own person.
So let’s
Try on that mask, shall we?
One for you and one for me.
Masks aplenty, masks abound,
Masks askance…
There, it fits. Welcome, Charles. Welcome back.

And welcome ghost.

…a ghost to prompt you in your mask, a ghost
off stage, and hoarse from shouting, diaphanous,
just like the real thing: for curiously,

at that moment while he is in you,
in situ, as it were, I will be left
au naturel
—yeah, me—king for a day.
We were all meant to crawl away from the sea,
were we not?

…and I count the collective ghosts here too,
Charles…
… atavistic, frightened, unaneled,
and openly integumentary
(thus, open to the sea, but repellant
to air)
—owls, Orion, a star-scarred sky,
too cold to breath that night,
too cold not to, eh, Charles?
Like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza,
like Hamlet and Horatio,
out with the watch, in search
of ghosts and fathers…
ghosts and fathers, Charles.
You remember that?
Back then, when you used to listen to me
when I spoke. You did listen, then, Charles when
I said things, right?
All those old thoughts…
When I could sing…
Charles?

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