I wanted the avocados—
I didn't want the avocados.
I wanted something
that cost too much, that
felt too smooth
on my tongue,
that would torment me
with its absence as it would
with its presence.
I never passed them
with indifference. Imagine—
all those weeks
I wanted avocados
and told no one!
I wanted anything
I couldn't have
or perhaps to become one
with the culture
in a world of want.
One united body
of cells fused
with desire, the moving
target perhaps of another's
right arm of the right man.
Wanted and wanting,
united, I steered my cart
down the market's
gleaming avenues, one
with this nation of desire,
with the luxury, to want.
—from Anxious Music
I am looking for epergne when I find it, Sunday morning
in my Webster's Unabridged between ensorcell
(what desire does to the brain)
and ensphere —
what we think the head does to the spirit,
though it might be the opposite—
the soul ensphering the body, the body
meant to contain only what it could, a tenth,
of its guiding spirit, the rest
streaming continually out—
the way light illuminates the lampshade and spills over the edges—
but the word that stops my search is ensoul:
where did they find a being without one—a body, a bleak house
waiting for that happy family of four?
Is it something slipped
to the baby just before birth or in the slap just after
(the soul so deeply asleep it needs slapping awake)?
To endow with a soul awes me:
perhaps we're every color and shape of soulless vase
awaiting water and blossom, and only a saintly few so graced,
but what stops my breath is
to take or put into the soul,
as if the soul were a receptacle that could be filled
with anything—daisies or roses, trash or ashes. I'd want
to be exquisitely careful what I allowed in there—
when I think of it, I've had or assumed
scant control over what I allowed in
or what's been tossed in my soul.
I have been the epergne I was looking for—
that ornamental silver stand or crystal dish
meant to put food in or take food from—
I have not done what the poets have done
which is to give objects or words a soul—a variation
on idolatry—or a form of grace?
What the poets have done is to give death
a soul, which I have not done not out of humility, but fear:
once death has soul, if death is the mother of beauty
what mercies or cruelties are not possible?
—from Anxious Music (