01.4.2007

Contrafactual

Hang it right there, beside
The case of striated, alcohol-
Swimming salamanders, or prop it
On the floor back of where
The door opens. Cream
            and brandy in my coffee

Blot out the sweet
Potatoes’ peppercorns; at least
We’re sitting at the grown-ups’
Table after all these years.
On the television the president’s
            features seem pressed to

The center of his weasel-like
Face, little lips working
Like an asshole making buttons.
She can read at three, but
Are her ball-handling skills
            up to par? With so much

At stake or up for sale
How did you manage to choose
the ugliest sheep in the whole
damned flock? Striated like
Jacob’s genetic engineering,
            the patriarch as science-

Fiction con-man. He loved
Her for her beauty, but the
Sister had weak eyes – the better
Not to be seen. Take me back
To Chicagoland, I beg of you,
            for it’s there I feel

At home. The atmosphere’s
A burden at best – though a thinner
Air would leave us panting
In our trousers. Lining up
For the big discount or
            the new release. I’ve not

Read his book, but I saw
The trailer, mysterious lines
Of semi-legible script
(Font "Cézanne") furrowing the walls
Of a Pym-like cavern. Wrote
            an opera called "The Treasure

Of Injun Joe." Rub my stickers
Off, nudnick! La vida es
Sueño, es verdad, but is it yours
Or the Red King’s? Sullen
Gear-teeth ignite the pommel
            and thrust, trust in deity

Or currency, the bystanders
Stood by and the spectators
Looked on, but don’t expect
Internal Revenue just to listen
At your audit. Sunk tho
            he be, watry floor or glass

Ceiling. Shocking white and black
Striations through the marble,
Courthouse like a quaking
Unsupported blancmange.
The painting – all dribbles
            and silkscreen – rubs history

Against the grain, gives a
Negative vision – black
For white, white black, etc. –
Of the utopia none of us
Will ever know; and it moves
            in the body, clicking

Of the eyes’ valves
As they skibble over
The cracked and varnished
Surface. Under my palm
I felt the soft erectile
            hairs of your haunch, tremor

Of blood venturing and
Returning. The entropy
We chew and swallow defines
Itself in heat, in noise,
In chemistry, until it sinks
            to a level of common

Exhaustion, homogeneity.
With so much up for sale
And the currency’s paper
Pinking like rosy-fingered
Dawn. Striations of light
            and Angel of God

Wields a pencil and brush
To scrub out the last two
centuries’ errors. Draw me
A river, I’ll draw an ocean
Over you. But truth –
            to principles, appearances –

Remains the establishment
Of his value. Affecting
The ancients, who told us
Lies and gross calumnies.
Scamper, huddle through the
            rain of contumely,

The bitter cup of realism. Curly-
Tailed lizards move south.
Sky-vine like kudzu, who takes
No prisoners. His hands striated
With paint and masking tape,
            he would gentle the child

As something precious. No-one
Gets out of here alive (quoting
Hank Williams), and if she wants
To be an Indian Princess, who’s
To gainsay her? Like losing,
            sinking is an art

To which we’re deeply apprenticed.
A dormitory bathroom, a semi-private
Hospital room, the cold comfort
And ambiguous hospitality
Of someone else’s borrowed
            office, unofficially lent.

Measure twice, hammer once. Don’t
Stumble over whatever’s stacked
Around the pilings. Hunt out
What’s lost – better yet, keep
Track of your heart’s tchotchkes
            in the first bloody place.

Mark Scroggins (© 2007)