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).

Originally appeared in NOR 5

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