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Body Subconscious

by Mike Edmundson

Artwork, “Weather Warning” by Louise Francke


One with lust and one with disgust

Pale-faced and sickly but strong as ever

 

I hide from you behind a screen of smoke

Uncertain whether I seek your face, I smell

Perfume of Aphrodite on your lips

So strong that to defile you,

They’d burn women at the stake

Ascetics and zealots alike

 

Cloistered, repressed, broken

Denied she was ever more than

Your sworn enemy. She spoke

Sometimes with the cold breath of one long dead

Or she spoke of the world far beneath her

“Slaves to themselves, the fools

Dragged down by leaden flesh.”

 

You always look out for yourself first, man’s real best friend:

Your scent intractable, pulling you ever forward

Your bite lonely, misconstructed kindness

Your bark calls out at anything that moves

And you balk at the dirt at your feet

Sifting gently between your toes

 

Neither written, implied,

nor hidden between words and lines, but written clear,

Refreshing and feverish

 

You stirring sudden under the arctic ice,

Even with just your single thought, even

Breaking again the rules set forth by the sun.

 

Molten glass, you connect me, even

Only to a fantasy

Slave to soft ridges pressed flat and projected

 

Great monument to yourself, you

Like a grave-marker for murdered dignity,

Adorned with praise from past lovers

Set upon by rotting doubt from within

You first came in force when I,

Shaking hands and clouded mind

Took her at last in arms unsteady

On the first ship in waters untested—you

 

A thick wool blanket cast over

Livestock emotions out to pasture in the field,

Only ones I have, thoughts, aspirations,

Fade the same in your presence,

You bearing the dopamine

The fix for the lifelong addiction

Of every species

 

Every waking moment a different spur,

Some sharper than others, to goad you to action

A new mystery every minute.

Fed on plastic foods so long you forgot the taste?

You turn to art only to deny it imagination

 

What is imagination

But a slave content beneath your honeyed whips?

 

Discouraged leper, Desired lover

Savior, sentencer—

 

If you depart

Or are buried forever beneath words and scratches in the sand

Let every soul to itself mourn your absence.

If I dare to let you

Slip fishy through my fingers I hear

No encouragement even from disgruntled worms,

Who’d gladly salve with wet pleasures

The wound you cut into yourself


Published inPoetryChapel Hill