The Poet as Setting

The jolt that comes to bones inside a tumbled streetcar

is what the painter considers as she strokes her-
self into story. There is less to the jolt that
 
comes as he shuts his eyes before the monitor, save

what he imagines—a lightning bolt, a god tapping
the shoulder. He imagines the sky swelling
 
with ceiling fans or the guano of extinct birds,
 
a jolt riding from his shoulder
blades to his eyelids, dropping with roller
 
coaster clacks to his fingers. Here, he dreams of Frida

Kahlo. Here, he says, let me spread my flesh out like a
table linen, let my bones be silver that touches,
 
making, again, that clack. My skull will be a glass,
 
set properly, I have class enough. What jolt is
it to chew over class, his body set before him as

a reader sips (perhaps) a glass of something heady? We give
 
books spines, we break them. The table will have
its legs, its head. The body is upon us. Does the table have

a stomach? Is it simply there to bear our hunger
 
without its own, like a eunuch bathing a stripper?
What is the poet without eyes or ears—reading, listening? He is
 
a platform—a place to set, that to set it with. And if this is
 
all, what will he do when the reader finishes a glass,
rises from the poet’s head, and passes
 
into the city? Covered with a linen, he is waiting for
 
something to spill, perhaps a girl in Mexico rolling
her ankle in a street-
 
car.

Douglas Kearney, “The Poet as Setting” from Fear, Some. Copyright © 2006 by Douglas Kearney. Reprinted by permission of Red Hen Press.
Source: Fear Some (Red Hen Press, 2006)
More Poems by Douglas Kearney