Unknown Ode

Dean Young - 1955-

Historically, the unknown was used
to staunch battlefield wounds.
Now there’s a spray. The unknown
assumes too much, objects Annabell
trying to break up with herself,
like anyone’s here is the first place.
There are rules about touching
someone else’s unknown no one’s
learning in grade school anymore.
Here’s one now.
Boiling point unknown,
cleave disposition, event horizon,
its animal origami unknown
so stop poking.
I thought the idea was not
to have our brains sucked out
by a giant radioactive leech
or an English department
or is that just me? After
the third surgery, I don’t scare
so easily but who isn’t jumpy
as an astronaut recollecting
crash-landing spontaneously
in the Sea of Tranquility,
O2 running out?
The news from the moon isn’t good.
The news from the elephants worse.
Centuries ago, a little girl could
watch a funny bird kicking leaves
until the hand of god came out
and she became Emily Dickinson
and the universe milkweed
as the quantum predicts.
A lot harder now.
It’s all paved over.
God’s institutionalized, murderous.
Most of the universe won’t show up
and it messes with you
so you invent fish blowing tubas,
yo-yoing angels to flesh things out.
Layer after layer of shellac.
Screws in pianos.
Fingerprints in snowflakes.
First you have to love death
says Eluard like it’s not
his black raincoat saying it,
like anything his raincoat says
isn’t stolen from the rain which
everyone knows around here
never touches the ground.

More by Dean Young

This Living Hand [excerpt]

It's not only the word roses
lurking inside neurosis or the fact
that most of my formal education
occurred in the midwest, so too
my summer job inhaling industrial
reactants should be considered.
It's an unstable world, babe.
Always an inner avalanche
as they say in receiving.
I'm sure if I'd gotten a shot
of Karl instead of Zeppo Marx
in utero, things would have turned out
differently. Instead, my mother
went right on eating lobster.
But where were we? . . . 

Thrown as if Fierce & Wild

You don’t have a clue, says the power drill
to the canoe hanging from the rafters.
Is life a contest everything plays
by different rules for different prizes?
You’re really worthless, aren’t you?
barks the cherry tree covered with eponymous
fruit to the wagon lying on its side.
Unfair! Wasn’t that wagon not two days ago
leading the parade, the puppy refusing
to wear her hat? Can’t you just leave me
alone? says the big picture of Marilyn
Monroe behind her nonreflective glass.
Is the universe infinity in ruckus
and wrack? The third grader loose
in dishwares, the geo-tech
weeping on the beach. Mine, mine,
says the squirrel to the transformer,
unclear on the capacities of electricity.
String of Christmas lights tangled with
extension cords, can’t you work things out?
The young couple takes a step toward the altar,
increasing the magnetic force that sends
ex-lovers whirling off into nether nebulae
but attracting mothers-in-law. In one wing,
the oxygen mask taken from the famous writer
of terza rema glee while in another
an infant arrives, loudly disappointed
to have to do everything now himself,
no longer able to breathe under water.
Will we never see our dead friends again?
A motorcycle roars on the terrible screw
of the parking structure, lava
heaves itself into the frigid strait.

Ash Ode

When I saw you ahead I ran two blocks
shouting your name then realizing it wasn’t
you but some alarmed pretender, I went on
running, shouting now into the sky,
continuing your fame and luster. Since I've
been incinerated, I've oft returned to this thought,
that all things loved are pursued and never caught,
even as you slept beside me you were flying off.
At least what's never had can’t be lost, the sieve
of self stuck with just some larger chunks, jawbone,
wedding ring, a single repeated dream,
a lullaby in every elegy, descriptions
of the sea written in the desert, your broken
umbrella, me claiming I could fix it.