"Mouth"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
May 4 2004 9:14 AM

Mouth

Listen to Paul Breslin reading this poem. Giving one, fountain, Black hole of need. Swiller of oysters, Blood-clotted pudding, Bacilli thriving In undercooked meat; Rats, rattlesnakes, Grasshoppers, monkeys— Raw human flesh Rather than starve.

The infant's mouth
Pulls at a nipple—
The grown man's also;
Cunnilingual,
Glans-grazing mouth,
Omnivorous swallower.

Resonator
Of guttural shouts:
The field-holler, taut
From gut to throat,
Like ropes hauling water
Up from a well;
The blues singer's twelve-bar
Circle of grief;
Skirl of small-pipes,
Schubertian Lied.

Through you, the black
Swans of Rilke,
The blood-bright
Rimbaldian poisons,
Jonson and Marvell's
Silver epergnes,
The hummingbird-dazzle
Pent in Dickinson;
The deep-drawing vessels,
Milton and Shakespeare
Beat seaward, sprung
From your straitened harbor.

All we shall be
Comes in at the mouth
And leaves through the mouth
When the mouth ends
As earth stopped
With earth, or ash
Mingled in ashes.

Paul Breslin is the author of You Are Here, and with Rachel Ney, a forthcoming translation of Aimé Césaire’s play, La Tragédie du roi Christophe. He teaches at Northwestern University.