w h e n d e a n y o u n g w a s y o u n g
A N I S S H I V A N I
A fiery man dousing clothes of springwater and rose
looks deep down criminals’ tubby tracheae. Gullible
terminals – my label for lugers of cancer on the Riviera –
spring in bed each time the windows lash amorally
against the storm-God holding them secure. Fetish
of foot and ankle, feather-bound phrases in French
and German, goulash of whiplashed sun-worshipers,
accumulate like truncated reindeer with teensy horns,
lost on the prairie before natives take over to dance.
Have we come so far that centuries of recent vintage
are blocked out of suburban view, and high school
history teachers have to resort to biographical aids?
Have we in fact lost the currency of reason, whereby
ghosts could circulate among us as people? Visions
that used to befall my stricken grandmother, when
She was still able to pull wool over my sister’s eyes,
are encapsulated in the Campbell’s soup can, not
the Andy Warhol version of it, but the real thing,
piling on itself in the shelves at Safeway. Inside
the soup can and its siblings are politicians’ swathed
noses. Outside the store, on a windy day, paupers –
my word for welfare dropouts and Vietnam fantasists –
corral into their rusty pans scraps of paper delivered
by newsmakers’ divisions of leftover news. Whistling
at the growing, gigantic sign proclaiming the mart,
a pair of housewives in rollers tries to escape unloved
in their Karmann Ghia, but the sign becomes watery
red, and reads their mind. There will be a hungry cop
to stop them well before they speed up to thirty-five
in a twenty. There will be nosy inbreds and Edna’s
calisthenics in their living rooms to prompt acrimonious
debate about the merits of eating crawfish or shrimp.
This is only one house, whose interior I’m familiar with,
as a matter of neighborly courtesy. There may be others
beyond the ken of chemistry and biology, Kantian
propositions come alive at the last electoral moment,
hustling among the hustlers like labia within labia.
Who among us has not torn up Aunt Miranda’s notes
to self when she was throwing up in Daddy’s bathroom?
Who hasn’t known what it’s like to bail out cousin Jimmy
on false charges of possession of pot, in violation of all
that Jefferson thought? Gunrunners deny upon capture
by the feds that their world headquarters are Amarillo,
Texas. Taxcheaters in Chicago, operating for Capone’s
grainhandling successors, date only pensive blondes.
The vacancy signs have been up in the Midwest since
Mondale refused suicide pills. When I was a boy in India –
my moniker for unread Mann novels and Crusades histories –
monkeys dressed up in little girls’ clothes exposed
their privates as if it were the latest European fashion.
Still, the motels around Delhi – my euphemism for me –
were filled with tourists escaping Floridian winter.
Space is a question mark with no intervening signs.
Time is erosion of landscape grants awarded in absentia.
One starless Swedish night, hugging the Nobel,
I might shoehorn into my speech, for McMurtry’s sake,
what made Cybill Shepherd in her prime the girl
we used as waterslide, inside the confines of Main Street.
Not even Disney alludes now to fascism’s seeds.
I’ve wondered if there’s a fountain, not yet belly up,
that generates automatic writing for the eternally
blocked, its water rustfree, sweet.