Like Any Clown

by Michael Palma

The one who thinks he’s in despair
Or nearly there
Crawlstrokes down the morning
Flapping translucent wings.

Beauty’s withdrawn, tenderness,
The wet surrender
To the animals inside.
Bare wires partition the air.

Mouthing the slick bone
Of duty, he buttons buttons.
Windows, corners: everything has
Its essence, none of it his.

The hands do no good
For anything any more.
Nothing uses them any more,
Not woman, not wood.

Hiding in his life
He assumes a vertical posture
To probe the sockets of nature.
What jelly is left?

Once in a blue power
He bit into the flower
To unravel all the days.  Expecting
Nothing now, he bites the flower.

The eyes are thicker,
Heavier all the time.  They weigh the head
Down into the greatcoat.
He remembers the man who said,

You don’t screw around,
You don’t drink or dope,
If you’re nuts it doesn’t show,
So how the hell can you be a poet?

Imagination ravens to be old
On the back porch, all definition gone,
The pennants slack in a flat wind,
The work behind, forgotten, half undone.

Thirty years down, he wears
A smaller face,
Fills the minimum space,
Finds less and less to need.

Violins spiral from the stereo,
The window grows no bigger all the time,
The sun won’t shine,
The rain won’t let him go.

Beauty that shrivels with its sickly smile
Forgiving the stone world
Gets him nowhere now.
The beautiful is what survives.

Blunted with hope, he aims to stand
Hidden in the naked land.
His insides jump and dance like any clown,
He beats the line down to the possible.

Bombs shake the camera eye,
Shake the ground.
Pots rattle on the shelves,
The view holds steady.

The line holds steady.  The sections of the brain
Click cleanly like a rifle mechanism.
Fingers crooking over the clicking keys,
Like any clown, he hits another note.