By David Gewanter

Like backtalking teenagers sent to their rooms,
the boyhoods
of husbands dangle in closets, or bulge a locker,
ancient toys

awaiting the senile hand—here inside the trunk,
the Furry Freak Brothers
rub the benighted sovereignty of
Big Ass Comix

or nuzzle the Up Against the Wall
Street Journal, where
a sweaty financier is pictured with a purpley,
squash-sized penis—

Why grow up? The basement monarch
palms his relics:
the crumbled essay on pacifism, scrawled
to the Draft Board’s

faustian query, Let’s say you see your mother
being raped.
What would you do? The brochure, “Amputating
Your Small Toe Safely.”

The brochure, “Nudist Communes
of Canada.”
The letters to the war-vet father, chip off
the old block,

chip on your shoulder, twinkle in
your daddy’s eye
now poked out, that never read them—
And here, your postcards

of Hogarth’s faltering Rake’s Progress
spill out, a Tarot
of hokum, of coulda wouldas. Shuffle the cards
and play a new past,

so that now the coy syphilitic whores
first dress up Rake
to marry his puckered, humpback bride . . .
next, after the wedding

he woos her frantically, still proposing
marriage until,
fed on madness, he hugs the jailhouse floor,
ecstatic, inert,

a pile of flesh weighing on everyone,
lazily aping
the dream of man—and yet, in the last card,
somehow striding

fresh from his cell, fair virgin at the end
of days, never
ruling a house, never the bloated sugar bee
hung from the pantries

of the family hive, dry stinger and bellyful
of beer,
throbbing, a food-sac stroked for jelly. . . .
The footlocker

clamps shut, hasp, buckle and boy-scout latch.
A lodestone.
A marble dog at rest beneath
a marble child.

David Gewanter, who teaches at Georgetown, has published four poetry books with the University of Chicago Press; the latest is _Fort Necessity_ (2018). He is co-editor of _Robert Lowell: Collected Poems_ (FSG/Faber, 2003).

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