By David Yezzi David Yezzi
             Hard to reach, so you yank your clothes
getting at it—the button at your neck,
the knotted shoe. You snake your fingers in
until your nails possess the patch of skin
that’s eating you. And now you’re in the throes
of ecstasy, eyes lolling in your skull,
as if sensing the first time the joy one takes
                     in being purely animal.

             It’s so good to have a scratch,
though isn’t it a drag living like this,
jounced on a high wire of impulses,
every wish the same programmed response
to another signal passed from cell to cell,
amounting in the end to a distraction—
if truth be told—from rarer things, thoughts free
                     from the anchor-chain of self?

             For even the least sweetness, we
behave like the old man on the low wall
I saw outside the hospital today,
who had his hand inside his flannel shirt,
scratching at his chest, trancelike, agog,
his eyelids fluttering like butterflies
in a meadow of snowy Queen Anne’s lace.
                     I never saw him stop.

             Such root satisfaction is like
the dying desert legionnaire’s in films,
when he finds, against all odds, a water jug  
and, lifting it, delights to feel it heavy.
The score swells, his eyes relume. He tugs
the stopper out, then fills his mouth with sand.
Though, worse: we’ve seen the film; we know it’s sand;
                     we gulp it anyway.

Source: Poetry (March 2010).


This poem originally appeared in the March 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

March 2010
 David  Yezzi


David Yezzi’s poetry collections include Azores (2008) and The Hidden Model (2003), and his criticism and poetry have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, and Best American Poetry. A former Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, Yezzi is Executive Editor of The New Criterion. He has also edited The Swallow Anthology of New American Poetry (2009). His libretto for a chamber opera by composer David . . .

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