life lessons in the post graduate jungle

by heytherewildflower

REPEAT AFTER ME:

not all gay men are my friends. not all gay men are my friends. not all gay men are my friends. not all gay men are my friends. not all gay men are my friends. NOT ALL GAY MEN ARE MY FRIENDS. NOT ALL GAY MEN ARE MY FRIENDS.

learning new things is nasty. especially nasty when they contribute to my displacement crisis.

identity crisis is old news, babe.

III

THE SHOES OF WANDERING
(from the Book of Nightmares by Galway Kinnell)

1

Squatting at the rack
in the Store of the Salvation
Army, putting on, one after one,
these shoes strangers have died from, I discover
the eldershoes of my feet, that take my feet
as their first feet, clinging
down to the least knuckle and corn.

And I walk out now,
in dead shoes, in the new light,
on the steppingstones
of someone else’s wandering,
a twinge
in this foot or that saying
turn or stay or take
forty-three giant steps
backwards, frightened
I may already have lost
the way: the first step, the Crone
who scried the crystal said, shall be
to lose the way.

2

Back at the Xvarna Hotel, I leave
unlocked the door jimmied over and over,
I draw the one,
lightning-tracked blind
in the narrow room under the freeway, I put off
the shoes, set them
side by side
by the bedside, curl
up on bedclothes gone stiff
from love-acid, night-sweat, gnash-dust
of tooth, and lapse back
into darkness.

3

A faint,
creaking noise
starts up in
the room,
low-passing wing-
beats, or
great, labored breath-takings
of somebody lungsore or old.

And the old
footsmells in the shoes, touched
back to life by my footsweats, as by
a child’s kisses, rise,
drift up where I lie
self-hugged on the bedclothes, slide
down the flues
of dozed, beating hairs, and I can groan

or wheeze, it will be
the groan or wheeze of another-the elderfoot
of these shoes, the drunk
who died in this room, whose dream-child
might have got a laugh
out of those clenched, corned feet, putting
huge, comical kisses on them
through the socks, or a brother
shipped back burned
from the burning of Asians, sweating
his nightmare out to the end
in some whitewashed warehouse
for dying-the groan
or wheeze of one
who lays bare his errors by a harsher light,
his self-mutterings worse
than the farts, grunts, and belches
of an Oklahoma men’s room,
as I shudder down to his nightmare.

4

The witness trees
blaze themselves a last time: the road
trembles as it starts across
swampland streaked with shined water, a lethe-
wind of chill air touches
me all over my body,
certain brain cells crackle like
softwood in a great fire
or die,
each step a shock,
a shattering underfoot of mirrors sick of the itch
of our face-bones under their skins,
as memory reaches out
and lays bloody hands on the future, the haunted
shoes rising and falling
through the dust, wings of dust
lifting around them, as they flap
down the brainwaves of the temporal road.

5

Is it the foot,
which rubs the cobblestones
and snakestones all its days, this lowliest
of tongues, whose lick-tracks tell
our history of errors to the dust behind,
which is the last trace in us of wings?

And is it
the hen’s nightmare, or her secret dream,
to scratch the ground forever
eating the minutes out of the grains of sand?

6

On this road
on which I do not know how to ask for bread,
on which I do not know how to ask for water,
this path
inventing itself
through jungles of burnt flesh, ground of ground
bones, crossing itself
at the odor of blood, and stumbling on,

I long for the mantle
of the great wanderers, who lighted
their steps by the lamp
of pure hunger and pure thirst,

and whichever way they lurched was the way.

7

But when the Crone
held up my crystal skull to the moon,
when she passed my shoulder bones
across the Aquarian stars, she said:

You live under
the Sign
of the Bear, who flounders through chaos
in his starry blubber:
poor fool,
poor forked branch
of applewood, you will feel all your bones
break
over the holy waters you will never drink.

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