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Jacket 19 — October 2002   |   # 19  Contents   |   Homepage   |  Catalog   |
This issue of Jacket is a collaboration with Verse magazine

Judith Hall

Two poems

Worship of Mars

           The golden age of ammunition continued:
           Force whenever possible, now with fewer arguments,
And none expected
                                in the years to come.  
                                                                   Drifts of Japanese
           Anemones, tall and double white
     Perennials, nodded imperceptibly, then bowed  
To visitors from
                                Rome, Rio, Harare,  
                                                                  Kuala Lumpur.
           They traveled light with ceramic guns, fooled,
           Predictably, the border apparatus, the poorly paid guards
Who beckoned them on,
                                       amiably on  
                                                          through secured corridors.
           And now, down the changing coast,
           When they landed, bathed, gathered near him, for his first
Shot, the welcome shot,     
                                         the one the footman
                                                                            recognized, he fired,
           And the dreamy scent he patented
   Crowded scented air with scented gunpowder; fired
‘Catharsis,’ his first
                                 gunpowder; fired
        ‘Winter Sandalwood’;
           ‘War Is Kind,’ the scent like his cologne.
           Their pleasures envied his in the open air.
Their emulation,
                            his domination,
                                                       like the meal he chose,
           The falling langoustine souffles,
           Were common transformations gone awry. You saw it too.

The footman, a farm boy, mascot, (Quel hoot!)
Ran then with hampers  
Of cold fowl and raspberry-cocoa ices
Nestled in silver and glass,

And such a pity, in retrospect,
That our nouveau riche —
With their vestigial envy
Of European minds

(Enlightened myopia, and luncheons
On the long west lawn;
Drinks under a timidly festive
Wisteria shade) — neglect

Or fetishize their bodies, as ‘style.’
All rumors of a puritan gene,
True; and true the ‘pure’ romances
Among the medicated

And morally repugnant elite.  
A philosophy of action?’
‘On a bed of chronic fatigue?’
‘Nasty recombinant genes. . .’

He watched the footman pile the bowls and glass too high
And knew he could not resist a missing tooth, a bruise;
A submissive gallop. See the dear boy

Fly with a dripping tray? Another ‘improving American’?
And birds left the ancient fountain, one last peck,
Before they flew off, irrelevant,

Dripping on the perfect grass, on massed white anemones,
‘Venus’ tears,’ that ‘flower of grief in China.’      
The pleasures of domination began,

God, how many years ago? When he was ‘it,’ Chinese, Japanese,
The ‘it’ boy enemy from afar. If slaughter needed,  
Why not him? Ah brutal will!

He ran, his cousins yelling at him optimistic battle cries.  
One fell, remember; he turned, on the scream; a body squirmed
In the distance, a different cry.

Then others running back, smaller in crisis, one calling ‘Ma — ’
For his aunt, dear old aunt, her mouth open as she ran,
Her blue skirt on his mouth,

The blood taking the cloth into it, and taking her too.
And how the game ended: No one running over where he was,
To say he won. Quel hoot!

His aunt was kissing him goodbye,
The twilight on the couch,
The color of her hair. ‘Resistances,
Not acquiescence, arouse.’

She laughed superbly and left, and he,
Continued, indolent, ‘Cruelty
Impresses. People need a scare.  
They want to be used,

Afraid, beaten up; need
Pain; they need to dread.’
A genital chanting, dear shadow,
A hunger remembered, spread.

          Others will submit with a shudder. ‘Blood — ’
          ‘Is he bleeding yet?’ A few were leaving, ‘the less courageous.’
‘To be expected.’
                           ‘He persisted,’ ‘when  
                                                                        he who penetrates — ’
           ‘Arrived.’ ‘Enemies invigorate.’
           ‘They speed the blood; the minor ones clean it.’ ‘A benefit of war.’
‘Like wealth.’ The rest laughed.  
                                                     ‘Wealth, like envy, — ’
                                                                                            ‘Wonders of the world.’
           ‘You will never change your life; why try?’

Worship of Venus

After Titian

Naked boys
Swarm, for acres, warm across the ancient field.
Some are drowsy by the cut pine. The others play,

Picked clean, whirling as they wave to her.

Why wait for them to hurt themselves? Let the winged ones
Scream in her pollinated air. She made them all,
Made them male

And small, and she
Will keep them small. Kisses this refrain. Her nipples
Harden, nudge the slightest gown damp with milk.

After all, it is the hour for her hair.  

Acolytes approach, carrying combs and oils
Flecked with gold, over the scattering boys.  
Perform appreciation:  

Nod to orchestrated
Pampering, massage. . . She loves fingers, lathered,
Cradling in foam her brain, her infinity.

Let those around her change. Another birth meant nothing

To her body, her sullen pleasure stepping from a bath.
She turns her mirror, as an encore, on her thighs.
Her oldest aims —

Babies make
Their mothers laugh—an arrow at her. Executed laugh.  
The others settle at her feet. Grin, alas.

Inadequate accomplices. Poor accessories.

When he drops his arrow, approaches — Too old for this,
She sighs, accepts one kiss, wetting his brow with kisses
Young wine.

She dribbles wine
On his testicles, soothes her favorite son, his folded skin.
She holds him, holds the knife, and brings it through him. Wine,
More wine, is dabbed on the throbbing, and his tongue,

Crouched and dry in the pink-dark. . . She loves his silence,
Holy as the stained grass and the pollinated air.  
The winged ones scream

In ignorance.  
She leans, like a horse rearing, over him,
And nurses him, worships his amnesia.

He is adorable in the morning, when horizontal yellows

Stretch and disappear in cinnabar, in blood
That colors acres, warm across the ancient field.
Tomorrow charms.

Jacket 19 — October 2002  Contents page
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