Recently I saw an iguana killed on the turnpike.
He was trying to get to the other side,
which is all any of us is really trying to do.
(My body spins but my soul spins faster.)
Once my chiropractor touched a fake skeleton
across the room and I felt my vertebrae relax.
Is this possible? I said quietly, so as not to jinx him.
Now I’m writing about the Fates with my friend
Neil and we decide to mention Neil’s lover,
Hector. We both agree that Hector is extremely
mythological. He even has mythological OCD,
Neil points out, which I actually had once myself
in the nineties or seventies. Hector is excellent at
vacuuming and so was I. We both enjoy soap.
Furthermore, I hate it when bacon spits fat onto a
clean kitchen floor, even though I’ve always loved
the sound of sizzling oil and the way it burns like a
tattoo when it hits the wrist: lizard, lifeline, bone.
Canary in a Coalmine
First to fall over when the atmosphere is less than perfect (The Police)
Once upon a time there was a perfectly
fucked up world where if you tried to defect
to a nicer cage or some bright coalmine
(canary alert), you’d walk a straight line
in yout old (yellow) boa, your delusions
caught in the pouring rain between conclusions
and Charybdis. What are conclusions
but the tail ends of (yellow) imperfect
days where all your (yellow) delusions
come crashing down on your (yellow) defects
and attempts at walking a (yellow) line
as if (yellow) were blue and the coalmine
cutting off your birdsong like a coalmine
in a wave of methane gas draws conclusions
that will change your (albeit yellow) line
forever. Breathe. We will need perfect
air from this stanza on, all our defects
of character (shortcomings) (delusions)
piling up around us like the delusions
we sang in our once upon a coalmine,
the way all the other songsters defected
when they realized we’d reached conclusions
no one who wasn’t a bird and perfect
could ever understand, a dizzying line
between you and you and another straight line.
Who is bird enough to shed delusions?
Who is (yellow) enough and who perfect?
When I died I came out of the coalmine
into a world I’d jumped to conclusions
about. You could say I was defect-
able. You could even say my defects
were respectable. Here is a conga line
to hop onto and then skip conclusions.
What is this world but all kinds of delusions?
Zenyatta Mondatta, my friend—and a coalmine
with its canary poised for flight: perfection.
Poem Ending in a Line by Ntozake Shange; Or, Death by Music (2020)
The nuns used to say
I was vaccinated with
It’s true. I was slain
in the spirit of song when
I was little more
than three feet tall. Lis-
ten: forte, fortissimo,
You can hear the way
the heart son claves itself:
You can hold your breath
and syncopate a poem.
Your breath could catch fire.
You could die right now while you
hold yrself in a music.
—Playing for Change | Song around the World (2011)