Edward Mayes

Not that you can hold us to it but then
              E-roads didn’t exist until recently. Our fingernails feel
Veneered on our fingers, sinewy and locked, our hearts awaiting
             Eruptions of light shooting out of our heads:
Rags for the rag traders. Who’s been gathering up
             Neophytes and acolytes, teaching them a few things about
Eros, the vena cava sluicing blood, proposing some
             Verdict that’s well said but so watery that it
Evaporates moments after leaving the lips, something like
             Riffraff vs. the racquet crowd? Although we can’t
Needle need, we can surely near-miss it, like
             Evil, or cavil, or even the corral of horses acting like
Verbs, carrying the act, making it action, trying to
             Evade stasis and botch, avoiding those who
Rah-rah-rah, refuse to tousle the hair of the neatnik’s head. In our
             Neck of the woods, it’s not done that way. We dodge those who are
Erstwhile, ersatz neighbors, family members we can’t i.d. Or
             Venal crumb bums who don’t do the first thing first, those
Eristic nightmares, no claim to a real brain, any smarts
             Rainchecked, but let’s face it, they’re hardly more than
Near misses in the parking lot, those that
             Err on the side of error: we’ve got a word for that
Venue that we can’t any longer recall, cleaning
             Erasers on their chalky selves, slapping them, the air
Riffling the dust of words that had appeared to us briefly as real.

“Never, never, never, never, never”; Naver, never, niver, nover, nuver; ne plus ultra; neap tide; necessary; neck of the woods; necrosis; needle; neo-Nazi; nepenthe; nerd from Seuss; netsuke; evade, evaporate, evil, erase, eristic, arguer; erode, erotic, err, erupt; vellum, veloce; Vena cava, 2 large veins that drain the upper body and lower body and empty into the right atrium; venal, corruptible; end; vendetta, veneer, venial sin, venous, verb, verdict, Vesuvian; rabbit ears; rack rent, exorbitant rent; racquet, rakes, raft, ray, rag trade, rage, reh-rah, rain check; ramose, having many branches; Lope de Vega wrote 2000 plays; riffle, shuffle; the pain is the realization of the pain; those of us who don’t do the first thing first put a second or third thing first; first of all, the first fist





We can’t explain the pained look we
Had in the elevator: it went up, we

Went down, the Prince-Henry-the-Navigator
Mien became a vague line of demarcation,

The new world becoming the old
World so quickly, murder marooned

On the islands, huts of full hate,
Plunder plowed under to grow gold.

If the earth is the terracotta in
Which we inurn the ashes, then

The half-broken moon we saw last
Night is just a brighter shard, taciturning,

Huge in its sky refuge. We had forgotten
About the storm after the calm after

The storm, saturnined, figure-eighted,
Lucky-sevened, deepest sixed. We’ll

Wait for spring’s high jinks, hail
The joiners, lead the quitters on their

Crutches to Carrionville, home to
The picked apart. What’s more weary

Than to be wise? They sturmed, we
Dranged: isn’t it always this way,

The big losers taken by the hand of
The perpetually lost? Amend the amen,

Always a feeling of falling, tree
Branches and ankle bones, lashes of some

Archaic whip on some archaic back,
Great gouges in our only asylum, the starved

Nerve, the slow burn of the u-turn towards
What was left that we had forgotten, what

We had gone back up to find, there
In a desk drawer, there on top of a table,

Near the lamp we had remembered so hard
To turn off that it somehow had stayed on,

Even though this near-falling through
The January air, the time not in need

Of mourning, the curve not in need
Any longer of ever becoming straight.

January in the can; January endgame; canning January; gauging rain; daffodil is the asphodel; scrabble; savant; saturnine; Willie Mays, 1954 catch; the history of the English horn/French horn; river twice; January gamut; what January leaves us with; the end of January; wry January; carve, curve, nerve, deserve, starve, swerve; gauge, gouge, huge, refuge, rouge; taenia, ribbon worn in Greece; taeniafuge, agent that expels tapeworms/tapewords; January on the River Twice; burn, churn, inurn, mown, nocturne, return, spurn, slow burn, spurn, taciturn, adjourn; Samuel Tagliaferro Rayburn; Booker Tagliaferro Washington; savant nerve; the storm after the storm after the storm; storm and stress; ; “the time is out of joint,” “our little life is rounded in a sleep,” “nothing will come of nothing,” all from Shakespeare; aimless shopping; airy diction






You’ve hit most of the traffic cones
You’d only swiped the day
Before. And the hand pump’s

In the garage where the double
Amputee won’t find it, a reminder
Of death and flat tires. Would

You be willing to shatter
The Artifacts of the Other Life
When you know that this life

Is lived out? Those who deign
Can’t easily unvouchsafe,
That splinter in your thumb

From scratching your eyes,
The double life you’ve led at
The funny farm, from the culture

Of the tractor pull to crop
Rotation and sloughed-off
Souls. You’re a saturnalia of

One, bursting your tubes, tubering
And non-amative in all the untilled
Fields, the evaporation of any

Condensation inside of you you
Have left. When you took the fun
Out of fundamental, you should

Have also taken the mental, and
The calloused thoughts, caterwauling
Spats, calculated squabbles. The har

Har har hardly matters, scattering
Chance, stinkhorn in the pleasance,
What will be won’t be. You give

Yourself the hives, the heebies you
Picked up from the jeebies. First
Judgment: wrong. Last judgment:

Wrong again. You’re dogged and
Dangerous, trolling so sadly through
Sloughs, backwaters of whatever,

Weaving nothing you know the name
Of, a cough, a minor calamity of
Living, a doubt, a barren fear of death.

Soul sandwich, the sloughed soul; amentia, dementia; fat farm; the animal world, anima; bunker mentality; purgatory of the right hand; death penalty; caving in; the right soul and the wrong soul; conservation of momentum; first judgment; the cave-in we so loved; fundamental fermentation; artifacts of the other life; creak, break, crack, splinter, burst, smash, shatter, fracture, saxifrage, vouchsafe; deign; con game of the condescend, the vouchsafement of Jesus; condensation, amative; concinnity, harmonious arrangement; snow soul; a short history of the soul; hysterical soul; Saturn, roman god of agriculture, December 17, 7 days, Etruscan origin; agriculture, field culture, tilled; snod, headband, Middle English; the soul’s bark, arc of the bark, the book, bark ark; futhark, old English runic alphabet; airy fairy, Brit. Slang; aardvark to zebra; the double life; the suffocant; suffer, to carry, metaphor, birth, fertile, bairn, burden; the fortunate funicular; paraphernalia; airheads and arrogance; Barney Google comic strip



Edward Mayes’s poems have been published in The New Yorker, APR, Kenyon Review, and Best American Poetry among many others. His books of poetry have won the Juniper Prize (University of Massachusetts Press) and AWP Prize in Poetry (University of Pittsburgh Press). He lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina and Cortona, Italy.

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