Some Anthropology (prose poem)
And yet poems remind me of the tribe of the gentle
Tasaday who some regard merely as members of another tribe taught
to fool anthropologists with false primitiveness and
naiveté, to be blunt in their manners and infernally
innocent. No one is sure, as with poems, whether they are real or a
hoax, whether the dictator, in his munificence, created a forest
preserve to shelter them as he might set aside an apartment for a
poet in the palace. Forests and palaces, such utopias are mostly
exclusionary, like hotels for the rich, and needn’t concern us.
It is rainy for a rain forest to house our myths, to shelter our
lost tribes, who, one by one, gather in a clearing. I sometimes
think about my lost tribe of jews, American Jews, also part hoax
and part invention, whose preserve is sheltered under brick where
limousines hum and one hears the faint, familiar babble of the
homeless. As it happens, the Tasaday are being declared
“non-existent” by government scientists so their hardwood
forests can be transformed into chests of drawers. Strange, then,
the anthropology of the poet who must build his poems out of the
myths he intends to falsify, who says, look my friend, you are
laying away your laundered shirts in a rain forest.
When the slight rasp in his throat starts up
The stores on the mall are so much bought hambone of desire,
Uplifting the fear bird’s white wings, the smothering
joy vault, he, who is not yet even historical, and so
That makes an idea as political as sliced pie
The dim video game of winter. And the child’s
Where in this century most air is stolen.
Michael Heller lives and teaches in New York City. These poems are from his Wordflow: New and Selected Poems, Talisman House, Jersey City, 1997, ISBN 1 883689 49 X.
Photographic illustration: John Tranter, New York City
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This material is copyright © Michael