- The Paper Heft of Your Life, and: Oblate, and: Crazy Bread
The Paper Heft of Your Life
If to nothing else, some are faithfulto their journalsrecount their days how they go on, on, and on
But once you're gonethe embedded burrsand archetypal dreams(that frantic blue script)are weighed by a spouse a child or one final friendagainst the hollows of your waysand your shadow's short stature [End Page 114]
A few decent months pass then someone sighs long but laysthe paper heft of your lifein the recycle bin
Who's to say a page here,a line or two, won't drift into packaging fill or pin itself to a public shrub (let's hope for roses)
Perhaps comes along the collector of randomemotion, trawler for odd bits of paper who discovers (even publishes) a fragmentof your phantom days
While you,like the starsfrom which you have come,remain without fathom.
Ovid's decadent meter flaunts itself in everycloistered passage that runs through the oblate'sheart. His burning veins are dainty love scratches.
How to bear this renting of heroic meter,Amor's insistent drum—at siesta time, lightsifting through … He imagines a woman or youth [End Page 115]
breath sweet with wine, at his ear whisperingstories of the gods true as his saint's ownpunished flesh. Words and shadows shaped with ink
pressed from oak galls push his thoughtstoward a chamber he does not know. The scripturereader at table insinuates the poet's
metaphors of moistness, conjures a cup shared entirewith longing's object. Compline and Lauds the wordsinsist, My one and only captive—bruised lips,
small teeth marks. At lesson the oblatecopies Ovid's lines for grammar. Ignore the story,he is told, trust the form, onlytrust the form. A celibate life I would only wish
Upon my worst enemy. To be oblateMeans somebody gave you away. Stained lightsifts through the window pane. He ponders
how it follows the crude goose-quill stylusalong the parchment, the burst of ink, color of driedblood on the page which is skin. [End Page 116]
Balmy July is the MonthWe name Empty BowlMonth of the Hunger GapSag between harvest and hayAnd barley stored for the oxTill autumn comesWith our saving crops
Month of the Empty GutOf the Knotted GutMonth for Crazy Bread
From the granary floor we skimThe fallen husks of ryeHusks that shelterDearest fungal mysteriesJuly is the last of the wheatHost to a clustered mouldAnd growing new starsThe shriveled beans we spurnedAt Candlemas are flavored nowWith grains of dirt and rodent turd
But the dough's not readyIt's needing more spice
Taking a lover's green basketWe'll gather the wild herbs' blessingThe stems must wither three days in the sunThe baker's tapping a drum
Then hey! for pestles and mortarHemp and the poisonous darnelOur sweetheart poppy [End Page 117]
Do you hear them behind their wallsOur good monks chanting the lawsTheir granaries not full but cleanWho hears the daisyThe lord in his cupsThe clamor of his gold
Is your gut a'churning nowIs your head staggering lightWho's got a tune for the pipeOur women spin and spinWhose wife will you winFor the crazy danceWhich maid will take a fallDance, dancing all
The poor dancing July deadDancing the gift of our crazy bread [End Page 118]
Judith Infante is the author of Love: A Suspect Form (Shearsman Books), a novel in lyric poems set in twelfth-century France. Her poetry and translations of contemporary poetry from Mexico have been published in numerous anthologies and literary journals such as Manoa, Prairie Schooner, Marlboro Review, American Poetry Review, and Warwick Review.
* Italics, random phrases from Ovid, The Art of Love.
In the Middle Ages "July was the month when the divide between the rich and poor...