Good for What Ails You

By Elton Glaser

Featured Art: Winter, Monadock by Abbott Handerson Thayer

                                                                                                  He too would live: like the rats among the ruins,
                                                                                                     but nonetheless alive.
                                                                                                                                  —Antal Szerb, trans. Len Rix

It’s the first fresh day
After a winter so hard
I disappeared inside myself,

Nothing out there but cardinals
Like drops of blood against
The creamy desecrations of the snow.

Ah, there’s the shit we need,
And the shit we don’t need,
And the shit we end up with.

I seem to be returning to
Some form of infantile intelligence,
On the sloppy side of the brain:

Mumblings over the oatmeal, nights
Broken by clumsy sleep, hands
At the mercy of small machines.

We come out of nowhere, and we go
Into nowhere. Should I stick
My fingers in my wounds,

Like a good little Dutch boy?

Even in the barren precincts
Of the cold, there must be love,

Though love does not travel well—
It needs its own terroir,
A discipline of flinty soil where

The roots struggle, where they work
Hard in the hot sun, until
Deprivation makes the fruit sweet.

And what wine will I have?
Here, at the open edge of things,
I’m like a spruce that hugs itself

Against the ice and the night wind.
But sometimes there’s comfort
In the certainties of burlap, and more

Sure footing on grit than marble gives.
And even a thin sun feels warm
After three dead months deep below zero.

Elton Glaser has published eight full-length collections of poems, two of them in 2013: Translations from the Flesh (Pittsburgh) and The Law of Falling Bodies (Arkansas), winner of the Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize.

Originally published in Issue 19.

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