The Accursed Course in the Core of the Clouds
After Pablo Neruda
Where am I, with my pregnant face, my impish doubts?
Whence do the gods of hay come as the day passes,
runneth over amid swine, heralding the night
with one eye on the blunt parapet, gnashing my teeth
like lamprey eels with hickups in the jugular
desperate before the pensive night in the extreme south,
Vienna by day, my eyes the dice of sober Portuguese,
ribbons of water Janus-faced, two hands better than one.
As you contest and call me "mister," "son of a bitch,"
"you scoundrel," the days come and salvation moves
over the lakeland region lamely the color of halos,
the boredom pieta and the pallid reconnoiter
handed out at zoos between the legs of animals,
like the bald cop who beats the moon, wind tropics dead.
Rancorous years emanate and record the solitude
in the vast stretches of the lake of the night,
in the travesty, the sordid acidity, tiresomeness,
the candid tangle of the violins and taps on the runnels,
the goat of the new lore and the roll of the fart,
stranded in the vestibule clear and provincial.
Of the pliant comes the chemical of the busted tears.
Antagonism; After Apollinaire
The Gypsies savage us in advance
God by a nose vies in the barriers of night
The noose of light dims adios and peace
Deceptively sordid life exasperates
The lurid love with private ears
A debauched dance at meaty volumes
The lazy blue peridot sees the plumes
And the medians that lure the Avenues
On the sober sets the lion of the damned
Dismayed spores of the lame and shamed
The nooses’ fates are the Panzers of Allemagne
That quash and predate the Gypsy’s world
A Reduction of the Epic of Gilgamesh
After the Brothers Quay
The little songs of the unnameable broom,
the little broom riding around a grotesque
room like a psychotic tyke on a tricycle
who clasps a bug as big as a small man
cradling it in his arm for a very long time.
Part bird part monster with eyes for snails.
A hand lovingly brushes a tail feather,
exchanges some meat for a piece of heart.
Ice cubes melt and un-melt, re-flesh themselves
in a black square mold as time stops, turns and runs
backwards then forward, stumbles and stutters,
resumes its intemperate shuffle for home.
A sexy stereoscopic flatbed scanner,
perhaps a full tilt machine, the jerky
manipulation of a withered, addled seed,
a dance upon the live, electric wires.
Pedaling maniacally around the room
with spontaneous periods of attention to
the matter at hand, the little broom that could.
Dreams seen as though through a dream of water.
Loss of focus, zooming out of our depth,
lenses flipped as by a mad optometrist.
"Look in my plastic eye" the camera says.
As we blink and think tears start to recede.
The little broom that could grasps a cricket
singing with its hind legs – knees actually,
"striations" – its kicking almost human
but for the spasmic rhythm beyond the visible
in protracted movements faster than the eye
can see that would propel it – repulsively.
The little man approaches the edge and tosses
the thing away into an eternal death.
Now he is beating the birdman with the unstrung
frame of a tennis racket having flung
over him an old canvas bag. There are scissors
flying in the night lit by a siren’s alarm.
The hand’s tool extensions and the wild men –
Gilgamesh and Enkidu – our doubles, our part
objects, our hearts split open projected out
of ourselves – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The march of magnetized iron filings,
a forest of them come to life, fur-like
in black and white, hairicular, embodies
a reversed polarity. Screws coming loose,
burrowing out of the floor on their own.
A squadron of fluttering silver spoons;
in intense close-up even the grained wood,
redolent of fingerprints, seems eloquent.
In slow motion the little broom that could
picks up a pair of scissors and leisurely
slices the wings of the birdman clear off,
so cruel, nauseating, irrevocable.
The musical score that had been shrieking
like some kind of demented radio fire
crawls down to a pause. The end is anti-
climactic, unsatisfying, only half-wrought.
Alex Cigale's poems have recently appeared in Colorado Review, Global City Review, Green Mountains Review, and Mcsweeney’s and are forthcoming in Gargoyle, Many Mountains Moving, North American Review, and Zoland Poetry. Stranger at Home: American Poetry with an Accent is just out with four of his poems, as is a chapbook, Chronicle of Calamities. Alex was born in Chernovtsy, Ukraine and has lived in New York City since 1975, apart from six years at the University of Michigan where he won a Hopwood Award. His translations of contemporary Russian poetry can be found in the anthology Crossing Centuries: The New Generation in Russian Poetry, Poetry New York, and The Manhattan Review.