I keep a white peacock behind my ear,
a wasn’t, a fantail of wasn’ts,
nevered feathers upon evered
falling all over the grass.
When a green peacock landed
on my shoulder to shimmy
its iridescent trills, everyone asked
if it was my first peacock.
It’s impolite to speak of the translucent tail
hanging down behind your ear
like a piece of hair brushed back
in a moment lost to thought.
To make the well-wishers uncomfortably shift
their weight by saying, No,
first I had this white peacock.
Because it’s not anyone’s fault
who can’t see the glaucoma
eyes on mist plumes
that don’t see them back.
So I say, Yes. And I say
how very emerald joy is,
how very leafed with lapis and gilding.
The Symbolical Head (1883) as When Was the Last Time?
What faculties, when perverted, most degrade the mind?
What faculties, when perverted, does it cost most to gratify?
I undertook to discover the soul in the body—
I looked in the pineal gland, I looked
in the vena cava. I looked in every
perforating arterial branch. With the fingers
of my right, I touched the Will and the Ring
of Solomon on the left. For a second
I felt sprung. Then bereft as ever.
Someone used to love me. Someone
used to see me. If you open a person up,
purple, pulsing. It’s in here somewhere, scalpel,
and in and in. Let’s walk in the woods,
as we once did, and see if we can find a snail,
its shell covered in symbiotic lichen.
When you covered my lichen in yours,
I thought that’s what we wanted—
to be rock and moss and slug and all of it.
To be simultaneously thinking of snails,
which are so beautifully stony
and marvelously squished.
Wasn’t that what we wanted?
I went to your lecture. I thought it
best to retrace my steps. You were trying
to explain—If I were to put my fingers directly on your brain . . .
I wish you would, how I wish you would
trace the seagull diving towards the water
as a whale rises up, the anchor dropped, the gray
linen slacks, all the polygons of my this and that
jigsawing under your touch. Oh yes, let’s
do that. Let’s vivisect my brain and see
if it’s in there. You have your porcelain man
with the black-lined map of his longing.
You have your pointer and your glasses
and your pen. I hear you ask the class, What faculties,
having ascendancy, are deaf to reason? What faculty,
when large, brightens every object on which we look?
I miss you, you know. I miss you so.