- Perseverance, and: Altars
My mother used to wear out beltson my bony body, once brokea Ouija board over my head,and Daddy would sermonize 'til the cowscovered their ears, doctrineoff a duck's back. Schools only gave medegrees to get me out, and girls gotso tired of saying no that they married me.Maybe perversity grows from a gene,like grass through a sidewalk,or hardens and mottles like a shell aroundsome soft psychic tissue 'til you havean organ that plods on while the haresare sleeping. And so as soon as motherwould forbid me to go to the creek,the dogs and I headed there like newts.And when I finally went too farthat summer at the beach,and the lifeguard had to bring me back into another whipping, I just kept grinningat how far I'd gotten,how many waves I'd brokenwith my hard head. [End Page 110]
Our mothers nagged about runningwith scissors, neck-cracking rocks crouchedjust below our reflections, milky tidesthat sucked at the shore. I scoffed untilmy toddler nephew came to visit,when I, too, now saw the worldcomposed entirely of points and edges,forked tongues flicking from the outlets,knives flipping from the creelsof kitchen drawers, even windowsand mirrors aching for the aorta,the fracture and the femoral.All night, our houses practice theirsleight-of-hand spontaneouscombustions, whipping rugsfrom underneath our china bones,rippling and slicking the dark stairslike a cat's back.
You'll put your eye out, dead motherskeep rising to warn through a hazeof scalding steam, of the lead-poisoningpencil, the trepanningpen, reminding how the old gods,drawn by the shards of stars and hungryfor sacrifice, still point their pyramidsof curb and corner toward the temple. [End Page 111]
William Greenway's eighth collection is Fishing at the End of the World, from Word Press. His seventh collection, Ascending Order, which won the 2004 Ohioana Best Book of Poetry Prize, is available from the University of Akron Press Poetry Series.