I’m a work of genius. I’m the Tower
of London. What a zoo. I say: “Lions”:
Cubs grow like vegetable matter in minds
and gambol, gilding pages. I’m on order—
longer lines so polar bear can fish
more freely in the Thames. He wears a shackle
on one ankle. I can’t stray. I fight fistfuls
of ravens. As of yet unimagined fief
-doms belong to the King. Pirate, fishwife,
free me; but to earlier confines. Once,
I came from God. Never sucked in a waif’s
sooty lungs and coughed up. I used to pounce
on the tiger and play. We sat for portraits.
Now grubby hands paw me, try to set me right.
The X-mas lights wrapped around the ten-speed on the roof twinkle. Down below, gloves off. Mittens long gone. Barroom brawl. We lost. Bruises and cuts all around. Naughty kittens. Stray wonders, but never wanders. Goggles: for under the water, for over the earth. We have ruined ourselves for the everyday. We have been raised up with goggles with sideways-stripes. The plum line of the bar, old prison uniforms, a smile, a wallet’s wide mouth, the curved shore of a glass—we negotiate these with a slow feline grace. My dear, I sadly fear I need another. A domesticated drunk. Alley doesn’t mean to sneak around her back, but he won’t leave until after a few and after he’s ½ naked in some sly new kitten’s arms. Then all any cat would see is desire in one eye and delight in the other. The depth of the front bumper on a late-model Consequence divided by the roll of its wheels turns out to be not much. I am soiled for the straight and narrow. My ability to differentiate improves with hindsight. Every Tuesday, Wild sings, “I am a poor wayfaring stranger.” I was never any good at numbers. Stripped of my dignity. C’mon take it off. Striped. Hustle into the bar or close your eyes. Some part of you decides, navigates. I was just passing by, happened to wander in, here, kitty, kitty, for darkness’ soft fur, its rich drink. See here, little kittens. We cannot see what we have missed, even the Y-axes of the illuminated EXIT elude us. In bed until past noon. The clock says 3:15 but its hands are fast asleep. What’s a Tom to do? Cry, “We have lost our mittens and our goggles”? We swing from side to side on our stools. The day starts a line, then an angle, then unfolds to an illuminated chamber. House says, “I can’t live without you. Here, let me prove it.” House doubts. House hesitates. House wavers. House is, like his friend, so afraid, but of all the wrong things. House hangs. You find House when you get home. You are not to blame, and you must cut him down and bear the weight. Hush, hush, I smell a rat close by. Maybe I’ll catch you later. The bar, its sweet darkness, a study I can understand. Just for a moment, darling.
Susan Goslee’s poems have appeared in such journals as Volt, The Southampton Review, Drunken Boat, West Branch, Western Humanities Review, Permafrost, and Juked. She teaches at Idaho State University and serves as the poetry editor for Prompt Press.