after Hieronymus Bosch

There’s no there there, no here here—
a timetable shows the missing trains, the fruit bowl longs for oranges.
We went ahead to lurch behind, booked
a passage so circuitous it carves
new dimensions in the tabletops. They’ve posted
soldiers in the laundromats and everything you want

Irradiates to dust. I wanted
to become a different human, left myself here
among the daisies, tied the horse to a newell post
and let him nibble all the oranges.
Sweet tongue to the fruit, sweet agronome—carve
statues out of butter to venerate the cows—your books

with all their fractured mirrors, diminish me, bookend
this life with the twin ghosts of hollowness and want.
Among all the things we might have carved
into trees or out of marble, not a single effigy captures the here
of our simplicity, the rolling hips of fields, the slutty orange
of trees that turn on you each fall. Whereas a fence is made of posts

the country’s made of crosses and we post
death threats on the clothesline flapping with the sheets. I thought a good book
could solve it all, the proper smile. Yet tyranny wears orange
trappings, a mine fire, a deposition. I want
something to put my body in, I want to feel the here-
and-now draw its tongue along my neck, carve

a cuneiform instruction manual in my shoulder blades, make me a carved
idol for this new century of cosmic meltdown. Write this on a Post-it
note and affix it to the future: “Here
lies the history of America, one big comic book
of medical interventions.” There’s a way to want
that’s simple as our minds. There’s an orange

sun fatter than the sky, an orange
demon on a blitzkrieg mission to barbeque oblivion. Carve
me a corner I might hole up in, give way to what you want
and want for nothing. All we have are postage
stamps from foreign places, an attic full of musty yarn. Strike a matchbook
to it all, flee the scene and we were never there.

I want so many things for us, post my hopes on a telephone pole like lost puppies
but the book is here, our names carved from its narrative—all lost, all devastation.
Peel and pith the orange holds its essence in its skin. Peel and pith its bitterness, too.

Copyright © 2020 by Marci Nelligan. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 17, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.