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Glenn Hardin


Before your ground zero snake brain
begins to crackle like fried lice,
before your ego obsessing synapses start a dance
to escape, before your buggidy eyes
are whipped by the heat to explode,
blown wide open and closed forever,
just before your body gives in to the cosmic
violence of it all, the hair thick hair above
your beautiful lip will crisp down onto your face
there a tattoo your spirit will show off like a badge
into the next reckoning, and the next,
and the next, wearing the harsh grin
of the scar at every landing, a black mascara
of the soul that will smile like a bottle
of poison, a mustache so bad even god
as you whiz by will have to sneer at it.

--a nod to Weldon Kees

I know you're out there somewhere, even now. Your ghost of a life haunts at me. I try to see you as you left your car, but you're streaked out white like an old piece of film strip, time has melted your wispy presence into liquid motion, and I can't tell whether you're walking away toward the bridge, stepping through history into the drink, whispering to that other self of yours as you drown, or whether you're going in the opposite direction, toward the trees, stopping to light a cigarette before you waltz off into the woods, trailing smoke as you disappear.

I can't tell. But I know. You took the bay waters to heart. I guess you lost heart. I guess you took the waters for a home.

Of course you just killed yourself, you morphed your best metaphor, as we were led to assume you did. You did leave your car for us. So you knew. Not only what we would do, but the way we would talk about it. You knew. You looked for and you found the one divinely compromised gesture, a snap of the fingers as hokey as a gargoyle, that could announce you into a solitude I hope keeps you well.

Because your shadow-hearted poems hover, bubble boy. You're trapped. Whoever you were, whoever you could have been. And that's fine. The poetry is what we would have, at any rate, chained to your specter or not. And, sooner or later, your poems are what we who couldn't care less, will care about.

So your double reverse blackmail worked. You're safe. You don't have to face your raggedy-assed poems anymore. But I do, thank you Jesus. I have to let their weather blow through me. And corny as that is, your poems are not in any kind of way, safe. They can't stay still, and I can't either. I want to jump into this ocean of words and dance my own heart out.

But the pearl handled six shooter you have aimed at yourself glints darkly in the mushroom colored gloom you call home. In the mind of your poems. I can feel the threat half a century away. The barbed hook. Your poems as you. And I can see you more clearly now; enlightened to the max, poised above yourself as your body joins the fish. In the aching light of your invention, your liar, that other self, whistles up a shape out of your poems and you seem to live again. Your long cigarette. Your charming faults. Your transmolecular ghost.

Copyright 1999 by Glenn Hardin

Contributor's Note