Solo in the Skeleton Key

by Elton Glaser

Feature image: After Gerard de Lairesse. Copies after Illustrations of Statues and Paintings (recto); Measurements for a Man’s Skeleton (verso). The Art Institute of Chicago.

Who would plant, in this stony ground, narcissus and love-lies-bleeding?
It’s too late to be young among the primitives. Winter withers the stalks.

The air reeks of it, decay and the odor of innocence gone to seed.
The time for riots and tattoos is over. Who dances the Dazzle now, or the Swerve?

Long before the armada and the asp, Antony must have tired of Cleopatra,
Those heavy breasts, that midnight skin, a name that thickened in his throat.

In the heat from eating an incandescent pepper, there’s neither passion
Nor apocalypse, just tongues in hell, just retching and the runs.

What honey comes from old drones? Forget the hoodoo and the holy water.
Pray only in Jerusalem, at the Church of Our Lady of the Spasm.

Love’s no trick of ecstasy, no lightning strike in the mind. Each new child
Struggles out, bloody and stunned, one more last chance to get it right.


Elton Glaser, a native of New Orleans, is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Akron. He has published six full-length books of poetry, among them Pelican Tracks (Southern Illinois, 2003) and Here and Hereafter (Arkansas, 2005), winner of the Ohioana Book Award for Poetry.

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