Lay

Caesar was not born in time to heed Seneca’s warning
that if what he already held seemed insufficient
then though he gained all he’d yet be unsatisfied
so he crossed the Rubicon
into a homogenized corporate die of McDonalds
Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, Huddle House, and Home Depot
where idolaters spoke in tongues
and floundered in convulsive fits of veneration
to the sweat of the sun and tears of the moon
so this dam at Aintry was already built
when Shakespeare sang his first sonnet
to a world-fabric rent
by Becker’s rank & file, fife & drum, shitting gods
already eight million strong
eating through the earth like mulberry worms
with a proclivity for corporate cock
and the Kool-Aid flowing from it
but all regencies are in time replaced by republics
all towering crowns fall
and while Rousseau said when Goths ravaged Greece
they spared all libraries
desiring their enemies have these things
so suitable for turning them from soldiering
I still do not believe the Buddha resides
(in principle) within circuit breakers or alarm clocks
or little plastic toys from Happy Meals—
and a Rembrandt print from a poster shop
is still worth a thousand original Pollocks
amicus Pollock, sed magis amica vertas
and when this mighty fabric burns
all the showers of heaven shall not quench the flames
yet in the forest of long awaiting
a Black Stone sings of things unchanging
and a worn path winds that oft I’ve followed
when not harnessed behind Lucifer’s commercial plow
here the Tithe of Teind flows not so freely
and if you listen close the history of rivers bespeak
in their own subtle gurgle the death of Pringle Stokes
(the soul of man dies in him)
there are things I’ll never see, hear, smell, feel, taste
and those I have I did not like―
metal ice trays, stupid people, ties, and karaoke
and too, those I did – old wooden floors
real Christmas trees, pretty smiles, and good books
and though you can’t know a true Platonic circle
a Howard Roark, an end to π
or an electron’s position and drive at a given moment
even the shortest roads lay strewn with these ghosts
(whether you see them or otherwise)
and maybe one day I’ll write about them
or about how the Sahara seems uninhabitable
till you fly over it at night and see small bits of light
villages or oilrigs—
or about how Euclid’s system
can’t capture the shapes of trees and maps
the way fractal geometry can
or about an aunt’s raspy voice from drinking lye
or a weathered clapboard shack alone in a sea of cotton
where naked children played
or of how mimosas, like daisies, are – and are not
part of our natural landscape
since Charles Darwin stuck seeds to severed birdfeet
and got them to grow after soaking them in brine
or of his letter to Asa Grey about cats goading mice
or of laying in a bathtub lined with pillows
dark, save for a strobe light
Pink Floyd’s The Wall drowning out the soft gurgle
of a ceramic Darth Vader waterbong
as I drifted into the Zen-like quality of sea glass―
for Aristotle said metaphor most brings about learning
but what then of men fishing amid swans on the Pétrusse?
or the glimmering lights of a forbidden Cuba?
longing for peace not far from there
I once donned divegear off San Salvador Island
and jumped from a boat through warm darkness
listening to Beethoven’s 5th Symphony In C Minor
with a waterproof MP3
wondering if it was the only thing I’d ever done
that no one else had
in womblike blackness I thought of advice for my son—
pain: she’s a loyal mistress
be patient with her, without her you’d not still be here
and a good breakfast is more than Evan Williams
and day-old pizza
dine on Roman bread, virgin oil, and dry red wine
but plant the devil’s lettuce between your flowers
and drink your share of warm Stag
with sand caked in the top of the can
for Bukowski said those who’ve known no hunger
have never truly tasted food

I’d like to write of a man the Shawnee called Bahd-ler
I would call the poem “The Mask of Night”
or perhaps – under different circumstances
“The Subtle Art of the Forest outside Kingdom Gates”
and this subtle art may – or may not
have anything to do with that of the woodpecker
or that of the mistletoe
for whippoorwills sing where lichens grow
this I know
and wild winds blow―
I’ll one day write a poem about the flow of change
or the life of rocks
perhaps when doing work
for a research in graduate studies class
drinking, smoking, drinking more
maybe someone will think I’m deep and meaningful
breaktime – reach for the remote ‘click’
Woody Allen says something about great men
and how in order to become great
they must’ve never thought about sex
because how can you achieve greatness
when you’re always thinking about pussy?
I too wish my name sung in the halls of eminence
yet instead of studying Plato, Kant, or Nietzsche
or sitting at the feet of Charlemagne
Washington, and Alexander
I find myself reading The Onion
watching Mickey Avalon videos
or wondering at the odds of activating nuke terminals
by spilling coffee onto the keyboard
and loosing them as I sop liquid from the keys

an Indian said “grasshoppers eat corn, let them plant it”
and I’m afraid I have – we all have
and though nightingales sing right before dawn
and Perdita rolls in her garden of mint and marigold
others die screaming from ditches in Gaul
and rice patties in Quang Tri
and in the shadow of Pilot Knob there’s a fence
and upon it lean rakes, shovels, and plastic swords―
the contemporary way to honor the fallen
and Ol’ Bill Bailey plays his fiddle
and sings songs to the offended
and Joseph Campbell retaliates
by saying this labyrinth was already known
and that should we slay another, we would, in fact
slay only ourselves
but do not misunderstand me, as there must be merit
in raping women and gutting children
suing for peace under a white flag of truce—
nor is it the character only of the patrician, secular
or even those who piss standing up
as the good wives of Lyon attested
while slashing to death a young nun
with carving knives and meat cleavers
on the unforgiving cobble of a doomed aristocracy
and remembering la Rochefoucauld said
that truth does not do so much good
as its appearance does evil
I’m given to taking all children
when they’re too young to defend themselves
(like those at Sand Creek)
and making them start every school day
by paying allegiance to religion and nationalism
as the good Catholic sisters made me—
so the world will always be in need
of Eisenhower’s
military-industrial-congressional trinity
and everyone’ll tend strong backs and weak minds
and drive dualies bearing stickers of Calvin
peeing on [fill in the blank]
and telling hundreds of fellow minions
from behind convenience store counters everyday
to “have a good one”
it’s from this lack of quality – arête – ambition
that the world suffers most
and should blood have to be spilled
then give me a spear and a warhorse
and I’ll nail Thomas Kinkade’s severed hands
to the door of the Louvre

Eleanor Roosevelt said great minds discuss ideas
average minds, events, and small minds, people
yet it’s not the great minds, but those of Yeats’ falcons
that still cannot (or will not) hear the falconer
they slap natural selection across the face
with the same white glove
that brought Victorians to look upon prostitutes
as the vilest of vile
reminding me of a friend who used methamphetamine
to work overtime
until he began working overtime to snort meth―
for what is the goal of every proper Victorian lady
if not to auction off her ass to the highest bidder?

I watched El Laberinto del Fauno today
and I wish I was the mountain, woods, and earth
yet instead I’m in debt and looking for a futile job
that will likely be an insult to human dignity
(Rousseau would have understood)
and although Wilde said no artist is bound by truth
I find myself drawn toward it, pulled by inertia
the way clergy attracts the child molester
though I too try and hang my pictures outside my house
leaving only the symbols to swirl within

I once saw the white bones of a grey whale
stuck by that great stuffer of bags
into dark crags of Oregon beach rock
where dinosaurs of fallen trees were shuffled by tide
and thrown like dice from bay to bay
and I thought of an article I’d read
where boatmen had been crushed by a breaching whale
“authorities are calling it an accident,” it had said

someone told me Bettelsacks were Georgian crackers
and that there was once a summer that wasn’t
and I’ve heard that at midnight
on the eve of Nollaig na mBan
well water turns to wine
yet no one can drink of it save for the faeries
I was also told that science is simply the Greek way
of thinking about the world
and that all philosophy after Plato is but footnotes
I’ve heard it said that Luke is the only gentile
to write in the sixty-six books of the Bible
and that truth is always the first casualty of war
and they tell me that virtue withers from lack of practice
but that vice simply hibernates—
and that character is shaped by cruel forces
but that by age fifty you get the face you deserve
it’s also written that a kind prince is a doomed king
and that after being stabbed
Caesar lay alone on the senate floor for three hours
I’d read there are as many ways to checkmate a king
as there are grains of sand upon the earth
and that there’s enough water on Enceladus
to grow hydroponic vegetables
but if doused with it you cannot feel wet
that is, when you’re sodden
all you really feel is a change in temperature
your conscious mind, being the tip of a vast iceberg
constructs assumptions as to the rest
and in an argument that strains logic, I once read
a man of genius is seldom ruined but by his own hand
but correlation does not prove causation
old stories evolve in response to new knowledge
and sharks’ teeth stranded on mountains
don’t cease to exist because they’re ignored―
yet even equipped with the most successful meatwad
ever to evolve from the seas of this planet
one hundred billion neurons strong
and so efficient as to use less power than a lightbulb
I’m still not certain what’s true and what isn’t
nevertheless, Napoleon said the greatest art of man
was choosing the right moment in which to act
so give me back that spear – now – and the horse too
and in exchange I’ll show you life
as it was meant to be lived
for in my last fight I broke my small knuckle
internal bleeding turned my palm
the color of my grandmother when I found her dead—
the flower behind my ear begins to wilt
and although it’s not quite evening
I feel my flame flickering upon the hearth at Vesta
so when I’ve finished this salt march
through these pages of Job
and death rends me twain with her scythe
light candles on the river, turn my boots in the saddle
and lay me under cedars
in the peace of a snow-covered graveyard
where sun shines through frozen timber
turning every tree a chandelier of cut glass
to become a forgotten lock of hair in a lost family Bible
as if what that I had lived were all but only as a dream

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One Response to “‘Lay’ by David Cravens”


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