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Shake The Superflux! Analysis

Author: poem of David Lehman Type: poem Views: 3

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I like walking on streets as black and wet as this one

now, at two in the solemnly musical morning, when everyone else

in this town emptied of Lestrygonians and Lotus-eaters

is asleep or trying or worrying why

they aren't asleep, while unknown to them Ulysses walks

into the shabby apartment I live in, humming and feeling

happy with the avant-garde weather we're having,

the winds (a fugue for flute and oboe) pouring

into the windows which I left open although

I live on the ground floor and there have been

two burglaries on my block already this week,

do I quickly take a look to see

if the valuables are missing? No, that is I can't,

it's an epistemological quandary: what I consider

valuable, would they? Who are they, anyway? I'd answer that

with speculations based on newspaper accounts if I were

Donald E. Westlake, whose novels I'm hooked on, but

this first cigarette after twenty-four hours

of abstinence tastes so good it makes me want

to include it in my catalogue of pleasures

designed to hide the ugliness or sweep it away

the way the violent overflow of rain over cliffs

cleans the sewers and drains of Ithaca

whose waterfalls head my list, followed by

crudites of carrots and beets, roots and all,

with rained-on radishes, too beautiful to eat,

and the pure pleasure of talking, talking and not knowing

where the talk will lead, but willing to take my chances.

Furthermore I shall enumerate some varieties of tulips

(Bacchus, Tantalus, Dardanelles) and other flowers

with names that have a life of their own (Love Lies Bleeding,

Dwarf Blue Bedding, Burning Bush, Torch Lily, Narcissus).

Mostly, as I've implied, it's the names of things

that count; still, sometimes I wonder and, wondering, find

the path of least resistance, the earth's orbit

around the sun's delirious clarity. Once you sniff

the aphrodisiac of disaster, you know: there's no reason

for the anxiety--or for expecting to be free of it;

try telling Franz Kafka he has no reason to feel guilty;

or so I say to well-meaning mongers of common sense.

They way I figure, you start with the names

which are keys and then you throw them away

and learn to love the locked rooms, with or without

corpses inside, riddles to unravel, emptiness to possess,

a woman to wake up with a kiss (who is she?

no one knows) who begs your forgiveness (for what?

you cannot know) and then, in the authoritative tone

of one who has weathered the storm of his exile, orders you

to put up your hands and beg the rain to continue

as if it were in your power. And it is,

I feel it with each drop. I am standing

outside at the window, looking in on myself

writing these words, feeling what wretches feel, just

as the doctor ordered. And that's what I plan to do,

what the storm I was caught in reminded me to do,

to shake the superflux, distribute my appetite, fast

without so much as a glass of water, and love

each bite I haven't taken. I shall become the romantic poet

whose coat of many colors smeared

with blood, like a butcher's apron, left

in the sacred pit or brought back to my father

to confirm my death, confirms my new life

instead, an alien prince of dungeons and dreams

who sheds the disguise people recognize him by

to reveal himself to his true brothers at last

in the silence that stuns before joy descends, like rain.


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