October 18, 2012

Joseph P. Wood

SHEEP

When the first plane hit the tower,
a good friend, in lower Manhattan,
was jerking off in a janitor’s closet.
He lived for indiscretion the way
the saints diligently lived for God,
but unlike them, never got nailed
for it: after almost impaling himself
on a broom, my friend stumbled out
onto the first floor, got the gist,
& walked thirty blocks back to Queens,
watching people disperse like ants
whose hole was trodden. A fleet of priests
marched toward from where he came—
my friend would deduce the next day—
to administer Last Rites. Seeing these
men’s solemn faces was nothing short
of believing that each priest lugged
a given borough’s sins like a pyramid
of corpses in a 15th century oxcart.
A former Medieval Studies student at Yale,
my friend had loved to ramble about
how Europe was founded on glumness,
its defining height was that of a rat.
A child might see one in a cobblestone alley,
& that was enough for the imp
to pitchfork his own lemon-sized heart.
                                            “Meanwhile,”
my friend would say while guffawing
& rubbing his hands over some
imaginary flame, “his parents were giving
the time to some wheat-fed farmhand,
blue buboes on their inner thighs…”

I can’t tell you what became of my friend.
For awhile, he joked about how affordable
Battery Park would become, & then
moved west & into a different person
with a wife & responsibilities. Sometimes
his cocky, sidelong grin comes to me
like a lighthouse beyond my sleep—
I startle awake & know what a dark,
dark world we have made for ourselves.

from Rattle #23, Summer 2005