Mutter Museum with Owl.
The museum is meant to overwhelm: the profusion,
the arrangement, precept upon precept, line
upon line. The sheer weight of all those ingested
objects, deformed tibiae, trepanned skulls.
It's not the gore of it that upsets me,
said, but the rage to classify, to collect.
Back on the street, or rather twelve or fourteen feet
above the foot traffic, the owl cocks its head,
looks steadily at one of us. Which? We can't all
belong here, language won't allow it, neither physics.
Speech's pathogen public in its wet mount--
The virus eats away at the bronze globe's
claustral flank. What's beautiful about corruption
are the maps it induces: clandestine autobiographies
reinscribed in paler serum, the phantom wings
lifting against the moon's apse. Inside the bronze
a sister darkness grows just a little closer.
The unseen parts of the eye crowd the edge
of the retinal plate--nobody asks what their pulse-
alphabets are busy unwriting. Dance,
hisses the body. Dance,
echoes the absence
inside the globe. You catch this voice in a drop
of blood, suspended within winter's blue throat.
Things I've never asked my mother: did you ever
have a miscarriage, cheat on your husband,
see your father naked, dream in another language,
intentionally harm an animal. Is there
an animal you've never seen in waking life, that
you wanted to see. Do you have the falling
dream, do you like it when you have the falling
dream. When were you most hungry.
Screech, barn, great horned, saw-whet, barred--
said my friend. A novel clutches
more precisely at what speech is trying to say.
The grapes on the table glitter in the humidifying
pleroma: feast of argon, feast of tin. Tear
the veil away, earth's nude calendar of saints.
At last the voice is a fire; it hollows the face
into competing planes, acute angles
down which the living slide. The owl, the branch
from which it hung, one girder grasping another
in the city's doubled twilight, bleached
down to the master tones. Friend or phantom,
prey or predator, appetite has its own small god.