Death Styles 8.31

after Jack Smith’s Normal Love

We gather round a blue eye in the stage
I'm fastened into my Levi’s
like the last Swan King
who floated off on an ear
and was drowned by a valet
who also drowned
but I lock my ankles in the rushes
and stick around for now
Swans die nightly here
because of the drainage problem
and are fished out of the drains each day
with golden rakes
A dead swan is a fish
just as a limp dick
has begun its journey
out of practicality
and into Elysium
This parable elucidates
today's production: Normal Love
The mermaid Death-in-Life
lies half-in, half-out of the eye
and is played by Mario Montez
who also goes by Réne
and is pursued by a hot satyr
with curls in his eyes
who keeps slipping in the mud
and out of the frame
When the scene reaches its limp peak
they reject pursuit
whereupon the eye produces
a bottle of Coke
Both drink
                        End scene—
but one senses it revolves
and plays again
while we're looking at something else
We have zeal but lack commitment
Our failure inverts to glamour
and re-arrives as the divine
Here comes the unsteady mermaid again
for the lumpy fracas
But our eyes are on the plain maiden
weeping in the potato-peel rain
a flotilla of cysty blimps in Bronco Stadium
or a skinny youth leaning against the Alps
who returns to Memphis, records an album
then shoots his car into an oak's full crown
O god-in-tree, o maiden, bird
willing to lay its neck down in the rushes
and weave its own basket
God's Chik-n-biskit, loyal bird...
            ...Today's the day for sweatshirts
but you won't wear one. Your hair's a cherry slick
that hides your face, your socks are cherry mixed
with water and your sneaker tips
a toothy white. You work them in the dirt.
Your ankle tangles in a string.
When you rise up on your kite you ride
and settle in some meadow of your choosing.

Joyelle McSweeney lives in the Rust Belt and thinks a lot about the toxic and the lyric, ecology and form. Her most recent books are Toxicon and Arachne, poems, and The Necopastoral: Poetry, Media, Occults, a goth ecopoetics.