By Adam O. Davis
I am two vowels strung twenty years long.
My life a ransom.
letter written by a cardiogram, tympanic as traffic & the lights of traffic
that renew the tercets of Esso stations standing violent as macaws
in the ululative night.
I need lithium or language, nurse.
I need words to fall like ricin from an envelope.
Clearly, my synapses need seeing to.
So, please, repo the verb of me.
Conduct me swiftly
through the conjunction of Tennessee where nouns loiter like limbs
languid with Quaaludes, where daylight breaks
like a mouthful of fentanyl over the teeth of a country that cares not
for such news.
Should a poem be the pill or the pharmacy?
Should I pledge myself to this business as if it were Gerard Manley Hopkins
or Jesus Christ?
Here I am, Lord, earnest as a rice cooker, lively as Superman
in his leotard, my spiritual fizz empirical as Pepsi & just as cheap.
who will irrigate these ears from error?
Who will whisper that in the empire
of swans the black cygnet is Elvis?
All around me the malady of my unmaking
unmans me: roadside trash, unrecycled recyclables, my shadow laid
like a new suit over the bus bench & birds behind it.
All this urban tumbleweed,
all these words for worse.
When whoever’s kingdom it is comes calling for it
will the last televangelist of grammar go angled like an angel in the direction
of their god?
Or will America just eat my opioids as it like Nemo poisons
its seas to peace?
When I was a verb I thought as a verb so I did as a verb, just like the police.
Tonight the moon slouches in its straitjacket of stars.
There’s a multinational
wind afoot, some merry beast loose, all pronoun without surcease.
What rooky woods will it rouse first?
What islands will it make of our bodies yet?
Adam O. Davis is the author of Index of Haunted Houses (Sarabande, 2020) and the recipient of the 2016 George Bogin Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. His work has recently appeared in The Believer, The Cincinnati Review, The Literary Review, New American Writing, and The PoetryReview.
Originally published in NOR 28