Sometimes I feel like a neutron
trapped in a rusted can of pineapple,
squashed in a graphite tennis racket.
fissured by ultraviolet rays,
nudged into uva ursi and lupine,
batted from a thousand sleepless eyes.
Sometimes even my own thoughts
seem foreign. My feet ache
from dead cows, or maybe the idea
of meat, the musk of butcher shops
and butchers, delis, pigs’ heads hung
like trophies from silver hooks.
Who is the woman speaking to—
that one, standing in the sleeveless
dress, wearing daisies in her
unkempt hair? Or is it merely you,
the reader-savant, nodding off?
This morning, I noticed a lunette
of coffee grounds beneath my mug
when I lifted it from the dining room table.
I tried to count each ground. Despite
all appearances to the contrary,
I was practicing the scientific method
like Gregor Mendel, who I memorized
in elementary school, along with Bernoulli’s
Principle, Avogadro’s Number, axons,
respiration. I remember history too—
mundane facts about Phillip II,
Gutenberg, the Bubonic plague,
The Viceroyalty of Peru, Chichen Itza,
which may be why my head
feels on the verge of implosion.
Faster! I tell myself. The mutant
aliens are on their way. Your rabbit
Ursula needs water.
Am I still in the butcher shop?
A boy’s apron is smeared with blood.
A girl in jeans wields a hunting knife,
plunges it into a wooden counter.
Jazz comes on the radio. The sun
blooms dust on the sill. Am I
still speaking? Can anyone hear?
Some seconds hold months or years,
just as hands transmit love.
Love, I think, transcends guts,
the severed hearts spurting
red paint there on the floor. Someone
dropped them. They aren’t mine. Look:
the girl retrieves one, brushes
away soot. It’s still beating, this radiant,
crimson fruit. What should I sing to it?
A melody of grapes. Leaves. Gravel
on seasonal roads. There, stiff
as an evergreen is Beethoven himself, kissing
Joan of Arc, or maybe my grandmother.
Ah, hearts! Ah, stars! Ah, Science!
You all seem one, sewn into a thundering eye,
at the foot of an invisible mountain
kissing the toes of clouds, the tails,
paws, ears, chins, bones of poor ancestors,
starving from a lack of potatoes, clinging
to the rails of some hopeful, patched Titanic.