From Clangings

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Jan. 4 2011 6:54 AM

From Clangings

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Steven Cramer read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.

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(Clang Association:  in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, dissociated ideas conveyed through similar word sounds)

A finch in my chest flinches to get
heard.  Wingman sewed it in.  I hear
the chi-chuwee chuwee achew in there,
tiny beck beating the big heartbeat.

Mind you, it takes brains to slice
open a hide, scoop out the marble
muscles; craze a rib cage; uncoil
an aorta; slide in a gift like his:

the elf chirruping in my self, itself
elfin (the self's wit-part part want).
Pity I'm not someone else's heart!—
elf elsewhere, another body's grief.

I don't mind my beater's a warbler,
or how in-the-skin is the finch's cry.
Eat sweat, wet seat:  its homunculi
pinions ping in a rock tumbler's

cavity.  I place my ear to my chest.
Finch-flitters from the solar-plexus,
beaky reminders keep keeping pace.
Oh my minute pecks, tend your nest.

**

Iris of the one-eyed Satan—see it?
X-ray of a horse pout about to eat me.
Amputee kissing a double amputee.
Exploded nova; no, what an idiot                                                                               

I am:  fly gotten crushed by a shovel.
That black is somebody's childhood
shit spread on a microscope slide.
If e cuts in line, vile becomes evil.

A woman's shadow on her back, legs
open, like pudding's been splattened
by a bullet-train's million-mile second.
Take away the veins, that's the bags

I stuffed my faces in before their faces
mixed each other up and made mine.
What a kid drew in Art Class, a brain-
dead kid.  Not sure what that clot is—

or they're smudges, maybe inkblots?
Somebody dripped ink on paper, folded
the paper top to bottom or side to side.
The ink blotted and created inkblots.

**

The circulars blued under my eyes
from lugging salt sacks across a river
over a fire.  One blinkered the other.
Almighty, they blazed with furies.

They were a sight.  In Lord School,
my retinas uprooted.  Not funny, I
tell you, spotting clots in eye jelly.
I've seen things.  Threaded red pencil

threats, delivered.  The pupils shrank.
Bobbing in floaters, I squinted right
at the nuns, white as off-white paint.
Faces have fifty-two muscles to spank.

Could've sworn I'd rubbed out all
that rubble.  Could've sworn I saw
trouble swell into an eyeful of awe.
Awl, hack, rip, jig.  Two-hand radial

Father Joseph.  Touchy amen man.
Ass-burned the children out of sight.
Jesus's analgesics didn't conceal shit.
A hymn is one crummy physician.

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Steven Cramer's fifth collection, Clangings, will be published in 2012. He directs the low-residency MFA creative writing program at Lesley University. 

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