Monday, November 30, 2009

Jonathan Minton, "4 Poems"

Jonathan Minton

4 Poems

Lazarus, in his wonder, in his keeping

He emerged from the tomb mouthing the word bekos and hungry for bread. He looked to the ocean for the origins of yeast and discovered kombucha, cellular fuels, ambient foods, and all manner of natural flora for the small intestine. When satisfied, he studied the habits of children and mimicked their more emphatic cries—one for fruit, two for snake, three for bird of prey. But his games became difficult, complicated by the dangerous assortment of knives and spears arranged as teeth in honor of an imaginary leviathan. He placed his faith in a small spherical object he simply called sphere. When his faith was tested, he thought of a king in his throne room—the king of green blooms, the king of baskets and calves. When his words would stick in his throat, or cling too closely to his hands, he discovered salts to treat the ensuing nausea. But the feeling would always return, and everyone would again witness his anxious attempts to build small boats out of grass and osprey feathers, placing a small object from his room in each one. In time, he learned to live quietly, and in moderate health, keeping a slip of paper, with the word apple written in its center, pressed to the inside of his cheek.

Lazarus, before the attendant masses

“The body is a noun, a surplus, a foot taking root where it steps. The body is a verb whose refrain encircles its nest, a word signifying the two while in flight. But its place of origin is seldom known, and one must learn to misplace, to remember the numerous errors before their yield, before our yielding.”

“What, for instance, is the water of the white of an egg? What is the oil of its yoke, or the paper-thin membrane of its shell? I have said that an egg settles before a bird unsettles it. I have said that even if the nettle stings, the pain is not permanent, and its stem can be rendered as both paper and ink if care is taken. With little cultivation, the superfluities in the body that the coldness and moisture of winter have left behind can be dissolved as salt.”

“I have said that our intentions will always drip from stem to ground, that our best uniforms are still chemical. In some parts of the kingdom, this residue is called ‘profit,’ and in others it is called ‘stranger.’ There is always another word for this, but on our last day of naming, soldiers will circle the perimeter of what was once the capital. In its center, the virgins will remove the curtains from their room. In their weddings, the windows and mirrors will be arranged so that the room consists of nothing but sun, as if the sun is really a hole in the vault of heaven, as if the vault of heaven is the one bright spot.”

Poem for Andy Kaufman


In his borrowed voice, the character begins by speaking
about working in a neighborhood downtown
where the darkest corners of the streets
converge in cinematic angles.
He pretends not to notice the growth of lawn chairs
in the brighter lengths.


(When asked to explain
he nervously unbuttons his jacket
and mentions the parable of the twin luxury sofas.)

(In the parable, a thief becomes famous
and exits the scene as a ghost.
Later, he will enter the city as if he were real.)

(Among so many young gods
wealth must accumulate, unnoticed,
in the alleys behind the palace.)

(The body, in public, is political.)
(His response to any question is always yes.)
(The city, he insists, is liquid.)


If the body signifies sorrow, or if it is merely the framework…

If an eagle descends with one cervatillo hung in its claws…

If the letter B drops as an omen from its beak…

If his speeches end when the walls of the city begin…

If his beloved nation is missing, and the others, entirely in themselves…

If the thief still blushes, if his cell isn’t finished….

His story returns to its tree and calls down from a place that is.


The character begins by speaking
The character begins by speaking
In the parable, a thief becomes famous
In the parable, a thief becomes famous

By speaking, the body is political
By speaking, the body is political
By speaking the letter B drops as an omen
By speaking the letter B drops as an omen

If the letter B, the letter B
If the character begins as an omen, as an omen
In the parable, in the parable
A thief becomes famous, becomes famous


The character begins with the letter B,
as brawn is soused, while those in wine steep.
Each time he speaks a blight returns to the notes for the script,
even when clipped at the right angle.
A physical examination of B reveals a pictograph
in the shape of floor plans for the new Bank of America.
BBC weather maps, he says, are of limited use, as are Egyptian tablets.
What enters our consciousness is binding. This is the same as fate.
Even as he says this he is sick with B, sick with the spirit
of raw-throated boat men, and their green branches
cut below the thorn you see, the one you don’t.


The character begins again as before a window
absent of witnesses. He is riddled, but unguarded,
as if he could encircle each question with a park,
or place each one as an egg, delicately, beneath the window
through which he enters the city. This is the common response.
In appearing, he is figured in kind, as in a park.
A crowd gathers where the center is expected.
He sits elsewhere, through the brightest parts,
with his tongue out of place, his eyes in their wonder.

Poem for Andy Kaufman

Call me Black Jack Hayes, the Bell Ringer, the Hand Clap Attacker, and master of the flying moonsault body press. Behind this tiger mask my equilibrium is perfect. When my critics say “look closer,” this will satisfy them. I can guarantee you one thing is certain, because I’m pointing to the object hidden behind your back. You intend its purpose each time you sit or stand, each time you hold it to your mouth or place it by the door. Have I any other idea of it? Each day I suspect it, and the pain it brings me each morning. I know I‘ve felt pain in this arm.

* * *

Call me the Back Alley Bully, El Samurai, the Five Fingered Space Crusader. The pressure I’m applying is to the wrist and to the arm bent into the chest. My gaze is always inverted, locked into place, before dropping straight down to the foundation of all my action. Someday these rings that have been here my whole life may disclose themselves as something different and confound me. But what reason do I have now, even when I cannot see, to doubt what I hold by its throat? When it calls itself unfortunate, I’ll name it the thief.

* * *

Call me the Ice Pick Kid, Mr. Sayonara, the Death Valley Bomber. What you’re about to see is the sunset flip, the belly to back brain buster, and reverse facelock. What you’re about to see is the real attack, with the thumb to the throat. It will be as if you were looking at a large screen, or a brightly painted stage, so that even from the back of the room you will recognize it. You will see the wounded man when you withdraw, just as if you were moving closer. If anything happens to contradict this knowledge, it will thereby strike you as if you already knew it.

* * *

Call me the Kayfabe Heel, the Bitter Pill, the Kick and the Hiss in the back of your throat. You know the character of my mistakes. You know what follows my every proposition. I am staging this as our last scene, as taken from the book of traumatized names. It was true when I first gave it to you, and true when you took it instead as the book of your hands, throat, and eyes. You will keep this book by the door, ready for the day when the hinges no longer work.

Jonathan Minton lives with his wife Allison in Weston, West Virginia, where he is an Assistant Professor of English at Glenville State College. His chapbooks include Lost Languages (Long Leaf Press) and In Gesture (Structa Press). His poetry and reviews have appeared recently in Coconut, Castagraf, Eratio, Columbia Poetry Review, Free Verse, and the recent anthologies Oh One Arrow and Crazed by the Sun. He edits the online literary journal Word For/Word (www.wordforword.info).

RECONFIGURATIONS: A Journal for Poetics & Poetry / Literature & Culture, http://reconfigurations.blogspot.com/, ISSN: 1938-3592, Volume Three (2009): Immanence/ Imminence

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