Seconds before stigmatization
a saint often detects the aroma of rose,
finds feral dogs stationed at their crotch
but with me it was heckling perch,
a new fondness for floggings, paint by numbers
and though I share in their disregard
for stretching, a good breakfast
I've yet to unpack any sackcloth,
yet to subscribe to their endless hand washing.
A mannequin thrust into light,
at times I've wished my fist fed with dark wine,
infant-minded and enlisted in their sacred hoax,
the tiniest of trumpets lodged in my throat
but while a night clerk fishes offerings
from the lobby's aquarium—
its baby Jesus pecked at by clown fish,
adored by three masked men with tanks,
I imagine the tug of an invisible wire,
a soft but steady bleating but nothing
just my nametag and thistle corsage
instigating the air in my absence.
The tranquility's getting to me.
The amateurish displays by the salad bar.
At this point, who doesn't like the sound of a cave,
an unsurveillanced passage where one's better intentions
can heckle the soil, then mercifully flounder.
The janitor exhausts another cigarette,
drawing a miniscule meteor towards his lungs
after a long night of mopping up miracles.
They'll never see a burn in the carpet,
a clogged sink in the same way again—
every barren chore now glistening with mystery,
the halls buzzing with botched apparitions.
Settled onto the steps of the escalator
I filter into torrents of heat with the others—
gallant slackers who reek of a patented meekness.
What keeps us eats holes in our skin.
Even with the parting gifts and expert placation
will we enter the next world more selfless,
will we celebrate and weep as a team?
In the lot we're banging luggage, locking horns—
the sky above empty of significance,
not the least bit of scrimshaw, no unmanageable beasts,
more bent than ever on this new whine, this new exhortation
as we search for our keys with what's always
the first of so many final breaths.
Mark DeCarteret's work has appeared in the anthologies American Poetry: The Next Generation (Carnegie Mellon Press), Place of Passage: Contemporary Catholic Poetry (Story Line Press), Thus Spake the Corpse: An Exquisite Corpse Reader 1988-1998 (Black Sparrow Press) and Under the Legislature of Stars: 62 New Hampshire Poets (Oyster River Press) which he also co-edited. He was recently selected as Portsmouth New Hampshire's seventh Poet Laureate.