Solo in the Skeleton Key

by Elton Glaser

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.

Originally appeared in NOR 10 and later appeared in Translations from the Flesh from the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Elton Glaser has published eight full-length collections of poems, most recently two books in 2013: Translations from the Flesh (Pittsburgh) and The Law of Falling Bodies (Arkansas).

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