Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Education of Eric Norris

For Derrick Austin

This book is blank,
While that one is full
Of notes on poets
I studied at school.

This must be Dante.
The light is by God.
This Beatrice isn’t
My cup of cod.

She is D’s vision,
His Helen of Troy.
Me, I prefer
Some kind of boy.

Here I have drawn her,
A saint in stained glass,
Miss Middle Ages.
I had to work fast.

She modeled by day,
While I worked at night.
I never quite got
Her Humanity right.

I found her cold.
She told me I stink
Worse than Sin.
She’s dead, I think.

My love, in her eyes,
Had a turpentine smell
Like Pablo Picasso
Boiling in Hell.

So, I closed her eyes,
Whispering, “Love,
My love is like nothing
Seen from above.”

Here, Dante dropped in,
Smiling like the sun:
Until he looked down
And noticed the gun.

I stuttered like mad,
I tried to explain,
“I f-found her c-cold,
Not shot in the brain.”

Dante called Virgil.
He entered the room,
All biceps and Brylcream.
My heart filled with gloom.

I had heard rumors.
I told my best friend
I thought they were lovers.
And then he told them.

The case against me
Seemed open and shut:
A V and a D
Adorned the gun’s butt.

Dante the Don
Chewed a toothpick,
“Son,” he said, “Love
Is my bailiwick.”

“I own all the judges,
I pay the police,
Go, ask your priest.”

Jesus, I freaked,
I’m screwed. This is bad.
My godfather’s God!
“Easy now, Dad.”

I shifted my feet.
Inhaled. When I could,
I ran like lightning
Into a Dark Wood.

I scrambled through brambles.
I hid in a swamp
Under a lily
Pad like a lump.

Cautious as cream,
Trembling with fear,
When only frogs
Were all I could hear,

I crawled to a log.
“Whew, that was close,”
But in that Dark Wood,
A problem arose.

I grew kind of lonely.
I sat and I sat.
I drew in the mud,
“You want to go back?”

For billions of years,
I sat in the dark,
Listening to crickets,
‘Til I saw a spark.

My spark was a star
That fell from the sky.
The smoke of the Angel
Who taught me to fly.

Well, did he smell?
Did he look nice?
Is Lucifer’s light
Worth the huge price

We pay for insight?
Milton says, “Nope.”
And I have my doubts.
My Devil is Hope.

The thing without feathers.
Tender and tough,
A saint and a sinner,
Mixed up with some fluff.

Him, I picked up.
He dusted me off
Like an H-Bomb
Delivered by dove:

This fist full of ice,
All fiery white,
Ten thousand sensations
He seemed to unite

Into one flash
Of sky and hard ground,
Like a rogue comet
Shattering sound.

Triceratops heard it.
Life on Earth changed.
Whole mountaintops hummed,
Home on the Range,

And slid into lumps
Of lava, and shards
Of rock ran around
In hot leotards.

(A chorus of Greeks
Observing this dance,
Observed to the lizards,
“Now is our chance!”)

The damage was vast:
They scale where life lay
Vanished completely.
I shouted, “Hooray!

We’re out of the woods!”
One of my mistakes.
For Dante returned
In a great squeal of brakes.

Ten sedans followed,
Each full of thugs,
Each with a Tommy
Gun full of slugs.

All that we had
Was a couple of Colts,
One can of beans,
And twenty odd smokes.

That log took a pounding,
So did the dirt:
The bullets kept coming.
Unfazed and unhurt,
We fought with such spirits.
The Earth was our bed.
And I felt happy
My love never said

How bad he was shot.
No, not a cry
Escaped from his chest,
’Til he said, “When I die,

What will you do?”
He looked up at me,
“How will you face
Virgil and Dante

Alone?” I cried,
“I don’t know.
That’s why I don’t
Want you to go.”

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