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Madness in a Chalice

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Yes, a chalice: held up high
As if it were an elixir instead of dead-leaf soup.

But peek out with your watery eye.
That's right: over the lip of the thing you're in.

An opera house can smell like iron, cologne.
Aesthetes and snoozers a thrill

Mired under chandeliers, but
Can thrills be mired? Of course! And smells

Can make you sad, even
When they're clouding up the hall near midnight,

And everyone is clapping, clapping.
The audience stinks of aging privilege.

A chalice that might have held a Eucharist,   
Or a swimmer made of kissable puddles,

But instead it holds you
With your impulses which molder—O

What do you know,
Unreason fornicating with itself?

You get heavier when I plea.
Are you nothing but chemistry

With a sick sense of humor?
Willy-nilly chemicals elope!

But why bother to marry
When all they have to do is fuck

My mind and make you justice of the peace?
Are there no annulments in the offing?

You are not so interesting.
You care too much, or not enough.

Inhale bad breath from the row behind.
Sniff back what

Spilleth, spilleth as if from a nose.
(Do Renaissance verbs turn you quaint?)

Nettles on your funk-wet wings. You're greedy
To escape from and into

The vowel in the tenor's mouth.
His costume could have stench of urine.

For God's sake don't pour yourself.
Think: clear pond. Think: man at river's edge

Who knows the difference
Between desecration and redemption.

Source: Poetry (December 2007)

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This poem originally appeared in the December 2007 issue of Poetry magazine

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Madness in a Chalice

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