Ars Poetica

—Detroit, Michigan

Broad-ribbed leaves of the calathea plant
trickle water down into the mouth of its pot
as if it's still fighting off competitors in the wild

as kittens scamper past, the knees of their 
hind legs bending backwards with inhuman
ease, like teenage boys leaping for rebounds

on playgrounds, their hourglass sleekness
glistening like the shards of forty-ounces
littering the court: sons of southern

autoworkers still unfamiliar with the Michigan
that has taken them in, girls watching
from windows as they care for the children

of older sisters. The act of wanting offers
only the hope of movement, for every target
an aim, lives spent in the in-between,

multitudes of coexisting in this particular filament
as if no other were possible—American engines
turning in a summertime traffic jam, white clouds

from factories as if shift whistles sent them forth:
the mind propelled by possibility and promise,
an unbreakable stasis. The person who wanted us

has come and gone several times like a tulip
bulb's inhaled and exhaled lives: desire,
the seed itself, creating. See what others

see in us, that gem which no one owns,
our skin a concept, a bloom of imagination
like one's own yearning unfulfilled—unchecked

as poison ivy, the fumes of its combustion
more dangerous than the vine ignored.
Boys want shots to drop. Girls want

what's through the window, not anything
close by or far afield, just the usual.
Cat-backed Swedish and German automobiles

scoot down the boulevard, someone
else's barbecue cooking across the street.
Desire never lies beyond what's given.

I have hated the second-hand world. Who was
that person divided between the glances of passersby?
Bodies decompose, even in memory—

the hand-in-hand of melted hourglass,
bloody hips of gifted tulips detached
and traveling the earth, until the mind

puts an end to them like breakers
washing out to sea. "Fine neighbors,"
someone will say. "Quiet types,"

because no one really knew them
until the press run. Packing kernels inundate
the universe: far off, coalescence; close in,

vibration and sparking. Upon 
each smooth surface, each body,
Picasso portraits, light and dark.

From Little Low Heaven by Anthony Butts. Copyright © 2003 by Anthony Butts. Reprinted by permission of New Issues Press. All rights reserved.