Closing a workbook, the Mother took herself
Contentedly off, and proudly, failing to see
In the acne and blue eyes of her son
The indentured soul of repugnance.
He sweat obedience all day long; was
A bright kid. All the same, a negroid twitch
And squint betrayed bitter hypocrisies.
In the shadow of peeling wallpaper in hallways,
He walked with his tongue out, his two fists
Crushing his balls until he almost fainted.
A door opened onto dimness: in the lamplight
You’d see him up there, moaning on the stairs
Under a gash of sunshine from the roof. Especially
In summer, vacant, stupefied, he
Would lock himself into the cool shithouse,
Thinking his calm thoughts there, flaring his nostrils.
Washed clean of the day’s stinks and out
Back to the little patch of garden, winter moonlight,
Supine at the foot of a wall, grimed in cold clay,
Rubbing his eyes to make the visions come,
He heard the tortured fruit-trees try to grow.
What a shame! His only friends were the sickly,
Hatless, rheumy-eyed runts, black
And yellow fingered ragged kids hiding
Fists up sleeves that stank of diarrhea,
Speaking with the tongues of idiot angels.
If the Mother surprised him in these filthy
Condescensions, she was horrified. The awful
Tenderness of the child shamed her. Well and good.
Her goo-goo eyes were blue and untrue.
At the age of seven, he wrote novels about Bedouins
In the great desert, gleaming scimitars of freedom,
Forests, deltas, suns, savannahs!—He was goaded on
By glossy magazines, pictures of laughing señoritas
And ragazze—, until his ears turned red.
Came then a brown-eyed girl, wild in calico,
Eight years old, the daughter next door,
Roughhousing into corners, climbing
On top of him, pulling his hair, and then,
When he was underneath, he bit her ass,
Seeing as how she never wore panties;
Beaten at last, bloodied tooth and nail, he crawled
Back to his room with her smells all over him.
He dreaded the pale Sundays of December,
Perched on a stool, hair plastered to his head with oil,
Reading the cabbage leaves of the family Bible;
Every night in bed his dreams oppressed him.
He didn’t love God; he loved the workmen seen
In the wild evenings walking, swathed
In their jackets, back into the noise of town, into
Shouts and drums, edicts and roaring laughter.
He dreamed of a sexual prairie, a shining
Pelvis of grass, perfumes alive, gilded puberties,
And grass swirling around gold with a sound of wings.
He relished the darkest things, deeply,
Poring over his novel day and night in
A bare room with the shutters closed and blue
Humidity souring the walls and pages
Opened onto ochre skies and rain forests,
Flowers uncurling into their starry flesh,
Vertigos, holocausts, pandemonium!
—All the while the neighborhood clamor
Blared below—he was still alone, stretched
Across unbleached canvas, weltering caravel!