The Flea

At a certain point I stopped and asked
what poems I could write, which were different

from the poems I wanted to write, with the wanting
being proof that I couldn’t write those poems, that they

were impossible. What I could do
was different from what I wanted. To see this

was the beginning of work that could be work,
not simply pursuit after pursuit that was

bound to fail, yearning for qualities that were not mine
and could not be mine. Aiming for a muscular

logic that could be followed by a reader’s mind
like an old stone wall running along a landscape, I got

nothing so solid or continuous. The authority
I wanted dissolved always into restlessness,

into a constant gathering of images whose aggregate
seemed like things that had come to settle

inside a glove compartment. I had no faith
in my flaws, but I had a grudging faith

in the particular. There was the actual stone wall,
its mongrel irregular blocks harmonized into use, rich

and ordinary as a soul. There was the flea
that landed on my forearm one night as I sat reading.

The black speck of it, then the outsize sting.
The flea that is an insect, has no wings, can jump

vertically seven inches and horizontally thirteen inches.
The flea that looks, through the magnifier,

like the villain spaceship from a science-fiction movie,
that can live for years in good conditions, and lives

by drinking the blood of animals and birds,
in a practice that is called, by science, hematophagy.

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