I was sitting quietly under a tree yesterday morning after putting the rent in the bank, drinking my coffee and having a smoke when someone sat down beside me and, in the course of working through the vodka and orange they were drinking from a plastic chocolate milk bottle, told me a story. It ran in the back of my head all day until I had to write this poem. It rhymes. Purposely—to take the edge off.
The mannerisms weren’t in the story—there were no identity revealing details in it, but from the pain in the voice I had some confidence in its underlying truth—so I made a composite set of mannerisms from people I’ve observed in my wanderings about town. I put the benches in too. I note all this to point out once again that it is in this sense that art is lies; that it is artifice and synthesis streaked or stained with truth.
Sonnet of a Island Mother’s Son
He wipes his lips three times a minute and spits
beside his feet but there’s a taste never leaves—it sits
just above his tonsils and leaks into his nose,
keeps him bending down his head to sniff at his clothes.
He’s hungry to his marrow and always confused about living.
So he sits all day on corner benches glancing up at women
passing by, but his tongue is tied with memory—
the old cords constrain his jaws, keep his larynx empty.
He’s a man whose mother, when he was green and slim,
tied the ropes of her desire to root and branch of him.
She bent all the slender length of her growing boy
into the positionable arms and legs of a sex toy.
The city takes the benches in when fall winds begin to blow.
It’s endless winter in his head. The grey-green lichen grows.