By Albert Goldbarth b. 1948 Albert Goldbarth
Each morning he’d anoint the room’s four corners
with an arc of piss, and then—until
he was forcibly halted—beat his forehead open
on the eastern wall, the “sunrise wall,”
incanting a doggerel prayer about God
the Flower, God of the Hot Plucked Heart; and
she, if loose in the halls, would join him,
squatting in the center of the room and masturbating
with a stolen bar of soap. This isn’t why
they were sent to the madhouse: this is what
they needed to do once in the madhouse: this
is the only meaningful ritual they could fashion
there, created from the few, make-do
materials available. It isn’t wondrous strange
more than the mega-boozhwah formulaic splendor
of my sister’s wedding ten, eleven years ago:
her opulent bouquet of plastic flowers
(for the wilting pour of wattage at the photo session),
nigglingly arranged to match the real bouquet
she carried down the aisle, bloom per bloom;
the five-foot Taj Mahal of sculpted pastel sherbet;
endless “Fiddler on the Roof”; I’m sorry
now I cranked my academic sneer hauteur in place
all night. I’m sorry I didn’t lose myself
like a drunken bee in a room-sized rose,
in waltzing Auntie Sally to the lush swell
of the band. We need this thing. There’s not one
mineral in Stonehenge that our blood can’t also raise.
One dusk, one vividly contusion-color
dusk, with my fists in my pockets and
a puzzle of fish-rib clouds in the sky, I
stopped at the low-level glow of a basement window
(Hot Good Noodle Shop) and furtively looked in:
a full-grown pig was splayed on the table,
stunned but fitfully twitching, it looked as if
it had grasshoppers under its skin. A man and a woman
slit that body jaw-to-ass with an ornate knife,
and then they both scooped out a tumble
of many dozens of wasps, preserved
by the oils of living pig to a beautiful black and amber
gem-like sheen. I saw it. Did I
see it? From inside this, over their wrists
in the tripes, they carefully removed
the wooden doll of a man and the wooden doll of a woman
maybe two inches tall, a tiny lacquered sun
and matching brass coin of a moon, and then
a child’s-third-grade-version of a house
made out of pallid wax: a square of walls,
a pyramid roof, and a real smoking chimney.

Albert Goldbarth, “Stonehenge” from Combinations of the Universe. Copyright © 2003 by Albert Goldbarth. Reprinted with the permission of The Ohio State University Press,

Source: Combinations of the Universe (Ohio University Press, 2003)

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Poet Albert Goldbarth b. 1948

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Albert  Goldbarth


Acclaimed for its dense, expansive form and linguistic energy, Albert Goldbarth’s poetry covers everything from historical and scientific concerns to private and ordinary matters. His numerous, highly-regarded collections are often filled with long poems which range in style from playful and conversational to serious and philosophical. Goldbarth’s unique style is a mix of complex ideas and detailed descriptions woven together . . .

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POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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