Poetry » Steve Mueske »

The Boatman, so Beyond Tired of the Dying, Etc.

for Carson Cistilli

The Boatman, so beyond tired
of the dying. Hoo ha,
the Boatman lies when he says Welcome!

All these years the Boatman’s had no home.
All these years ridden like the Devil’s Rocinante,
Hades’ bitch, gaunt

shepherd, no thanks, no nothing
ever but the endless dead, the mummiform dead
in last attire, always mumbling, mumbling

their Why me? stories, each
more pitiful than the last.
No off hours. No rest, ever. No

scented pillow
for the old skiff or box seats
for the Elysian Games. No after dinner hike

down the road to Gehenna. Always
the dead, the shuffling, mindless dead
holding coins for the ride over the river.

Boo hoo. Boo hoo for the dead.
Coming and going, going
and coming. No one thinks to bring a Scotch

or cigar. Just the boring dead, surprised
by the grimness of the water that rims the land
he’ll never see more of than the shore.

This Freedrom Thing

To explain cluster ballooning requires too much narration. So I offer these constituent ingredients: a chair (lawn chair, for example), spare time, a plethora of balloons (variously sized and colored) filled with helium by friends who enjoy the particular nakedness of an open field, and a chase vehicle recently inspected and found to be in good standing. Duct tape is useful, as is the boatswain’s knowledge of knots. What I’d like to know, really, is how the optimal ratio of balloons to weight is determined, if a few dreamers were initially sacrificed in the name of leisurely science. Soon, a threshold will be crossed. Whole living rooms airborne, stocked with batteries and battery-operated TVs, various and sundry condiments. Beer, of course. Imagine The New World Symphony at 500 feet. With enough gas we could get the whole neighborhood up, setup temporary nations, sovereign and lawless, really get this freedom thing down.

People, a Compendium

There are people concerned with nicotine’s effect
on blowjobs. People who drag and drop
to create their own Zwinky. Little hand-painted people.
Finite element people. People who like to watch
a giant buck-toothed teenager fight Godzilla.
Those who believe in the Tao of Star Wars or
thrill over particle accelerators, the hidden world
of neutrinos. Little people who make meat people
out of raw hamburger and eat them with monstrous bites.
With unusual phobias. Afraid of agrarian landscapes
but find close-ups of wheat peaceful. People who
paint their faces blue; their lips, red. Who flagellate.
Who cry out, “Why me?” Or “Oh, God Yes!”
gripping a pillow. There are people who know
how to make an IED, who design IUDs. ICBMs.
Unmanned drones. Who can hotwire a car
with a chopstick and a pair of pliers. Who sleep
along the river in month-old clothes and recycle signs
that read, “God Bless.” Indeed, there are even people—
granted, only a few—who believe we need a lot more
Jesus and a lot less rock and roll. They keep Pat Boone
in bathrobes. Some people love animalcula. Some love
the word animalcula. Some dream of placing animalcula
in a rousing come-from-behind victory in Scrabble.
People. Living with cancer, whose throats still smile
with the scar of a Hickman port. Who are, even now,
clicking on page 7 of a Google search, scanning
the blue links for more people.


I had thought I was a spy
but I was transformed
into a voyeur. The man & woman,
beautiful prototypes,
were always naked, sleek
as ivory boats, adept
at the language usually saved
for the bedroom. I watched
from the road like an addict
when I was supposed to be
engineering my escape: transfixed
by the view clear through to the garden,
their silent ecstasy. The wind,
which I’d previously known
as a compatriot of leaves, began
to dismantle my body, grain by grain,
until there was nothing left
but a brush of light & a whisper
that sounded like shush.