Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Once Upon a Time, the Earth Was Flat

Once upon a time, the Earth was flat,
and I believed my nose could tell me things
that conversation did not: quality
of character, mood, plausibility,
and what the next few moments have in store.
So: jasmine makes me weep for absent friends,
but eucalyptus brings me back to peace.
Oregano means help is on the way.
Let me but whiff vanilla and I fall
to pieces. Baby powder makes me retch,
but I would live beside a lake of brine.

Once upon a time, the Earth was flat,
and silence, once it had been commandeered
from mystics and contemplatives, would serve
a dual purpose: it would squelch the cries
of victims, while it all but guaranteed
that predators would be successful. Now,
when I am keen to take it up again,
I find to my – of course – unspoken shock
that silence makes me suspect. One more thing
had been forever stained by perfidy:
I'll have to earn the air of gravitas.

Once upon a time, the Earth was flat:
and scientists, such as they were, sought not
to certify the things that they perceived
with their unaided eyes. Instead, they smiled,
and soothed the frightened masses with The Tales
of Ages Even More Benighted. Who
in their right mind would spit in Odin’s eye,
or second-guess the vivid punishments
of Atlas and Prometheus? What comes
of giving up for the sunny halfway house
for dungeons where the dark is absolute?

Once upon a time, the Earth was flat,
and if by chance the clouds concealed the sun,
I had my dirty hands to brace myself
between brick walls, and I could free my toes
to sift the sand, or press the muddy ooze.
Best of all, the rains would surely come
and saturate my tunic. I would feel
the cool, the contour, and the mighty thump
of every drop upon my freckled back –
I have composed my own creation myth:
my navel is a crater from God’s thumb.

Once upon a time, the Earth was flat,
and when we weren’t fighting, we were scraped
or punctured by our sport. That’s how I came
to taste the ocean traces in my blood,
the bitterness of antiseptic balms,
and sweetness from the wage of bravery.
Hot and sour flavors would I dare,
as I was dared, to sample, and I’d spit
all day without expelling from my mouth
the wrack of spoiled food. This ghastly tongue
has hurt me sorely, but I treat it well.

Once upon a time, the Earth was flat,
but restless minds have long since disavowed -
with mathematics, and their obtuse treks-
the royal lie of flatness, Once I knew
for certain: up was up, and down was down.
And I had Heaven’s fumes to keep me drunk:
what did I care about the siren song
And fat mirages of Satan’s Burlesque?
So now the Earth is round – or so they say:
Heaven is a stately cul-de-sac,
and Hell is trapped and churning at my feet.

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