Levity among the Loons

For Ted Roethke

A loon said to a loon,
“I am lighter than the moon!
Drifting on the sky’s epidermal crust
without a single wing.
I merely trust that gravities will swoon
and air will bear me up—
a miracle babe thrust to the gods,
a mug o’ grog lifted to the toast,
hot vapor rising from a roast,
a glory craving bellowing from a boast,
a bang burst from a balloon!
Infinity’s sylph-slippered asymptote . . .”

“What you mean is that you float,”
said a loon to a loon
who also said, “but a moon is two moons.
One sits on the sighs of the world, shedding stars,
while her sister simmers in this lake,
another lonely girl
frequenting watery bars
where she hangs her neck to drink,
and drinks, and drinks. It makes you think:
some kinds of thirst are lies.
She grows more liquored with the wake.
Hardly even whole, really just a wreck,
hoping that some bottom-love will make her sink
and disappear into the dark.
Water’s the only weight she knows,
and it’s not weight enough
to anchor her ghosty color down
to the oblivion-life of its elementary particles—
sober, spaceless, black . . .”

“Of quarks!?” smirked a loon to a loon
as if to importune.

“Yes, of quarks,
the intelligence of mass, matter’s unmentionables,
the negligees of weight, an article’s innuendoes . . .”

“Perhaps she should date crows!” snickered a loon to a loon,
“Or learn to love the mud—a bottom love, indeed,
if I catch your drift.
Mud does wonders for the complexion, they say,
and crows cast only shadows, never reflections.
But who wants a casket for a wedding bed?
A grave’s not a decent place to stay—
too long a stop to smell the roses decay.

“No, I think she craves a kind of kinship,
another drunken lonely nighthawk
with some drunken lonely night talk,
to come and sit beside her wobbling hip to hip,
a wolf to peak into her basket
and to speak sweet nothings
of her lovely, lolling, loaf-like curves,
her buttery buns, dreaming back
to the churn where they were indiscreetly overfed
with a weeping, running heat.
It brings new meaning to the act
of breaking bread before we eat.

“See now, she’s spread out like a swan
with her skirts above her knees.
She has her pretty pistils on.
Her bloomers are in bloom,
their pollens plashing in her naked buttercup,
her petal ruffles lap
like tiny breakers
lipping to the flume,
oblivious to the delights of ingression
as ashes are to the urn,
that womb-theater where desire colludes
with beauty’s buxom amplitudes
to ape deathlessness
at the cusp of the abyss . . .
and always the act of making braids itself with not,
as nymphs and satyrs strike an odic pose
to tease a Keats out of his thought—
or, perhaps, a maiden
out of her clothes.

“O she’s a dirty, little curtsey,
like a keyhole clicking to its key
to get the fit that it deserves,
and, of course, the turn.
It’s the spinning of the bolt that matters,
a tickle of the mechanism, now inert,
but yearning for a spring.
They say what hurts the hovel
doesn’t hurt the storm,
and the bee is happier in the hive
than in the swarm—
so a little death is but a little sting.”

Laughing to himself, a loon took flight.
Another loon went diving like a kite
down into the moony puddle, imbibed,
dissolving as he fell,
finding moonlove an inebriated hell,
a silvered muddle that can’t be sipped or seized or satisfied.

The upward loon to the upward moon applied
and eased his laugh into the sky’s divide
where it shook a little silence from the light,
a little blink of focus
from the eye-orb of the night.

And a moon stared down at a moon most heavily,
barely lifting her primordial brow.
She was a child staring into a spoon,
round face bent around a prow,
inundated, wild, wearing a sleepy smile,
to think her light could grow so wet,
and so marooned.

And then her weary eyelid shut.
The Big Mistress mumbled what to what
like it was all so picayune, “Such levity
among the loons.”

[See Note On This Poem]


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