Pan, namesake of panic, god of the wild, lover
of nymphs is not a job, but even in pandemic,
people need their gods and mask-making is
a rapidly growing sector. Pan, like a good poet,
liked to nap in a small cave; if you disturbed him
from his sleep, he’d let out a laugh so loud it ripped
your body apart from the tympanum.
The mask is how you put Pan in pandemic:
pairing the dithyramb, a song for the wine god,
with a play in the mask of the goat makes tragedy,
says Aristotle who argues this cleanses the heart
through terror, at least for the audience,
an experience he calls catharsis, purging: laughing
or more accurately, shitting oneself, which is more
difficult to pull off onstage. There is no physical
evidence the ancient masks of comedy/tragedy exist,
as they were made, like shit, of organic elements; a face
is not a permanent object. Masks and massacre are unrelated,
except in the modern sense.
You’ve heard the one about the poet drowning
reaching out of his boat to embrace the moon?
Two poets share a bath and you know where
this is going: It’s so easy, one says turning off
the tap and pulling the other in, now that we’re
naked, kiss me?
Remember the colosseum? It’s empty. No more
bloodsport for the foreseeable future. Too many
T.B.I. in America anyway. If you are under the age
of fifty and in general good health, crowds will pay
to watch you tear each other apart until the bell
rings again in one minute more.
It was wrong what we did to the wolves, first
taming them and then unleashing them once
we found they spread the virus. The packs
in the streets hope for something human
to reach out its hand. Inside their houses,
the children horde their food and ration,
roll a ball between their legs. There are not
enough beds. I will not see my mother again.
All day the parrot says blue bird, blue bird, stops
at the mirror to check she still exists. All night
the birdcage haunts like a dead body visible
beneath its white sheet. The children make
headstones out of an empty egg carton, ask
can we go outside please to pick flowers?
Young poets join the army: burial of the dead is already
on your resume. All the stray dogs are lonely and will
work for food. There are plenty of bones.
The world is reopening while we lie in bed turning over George Saunders, “stay open, forever, so open it hurts, and then open up some more”—
We could go out, but we know what’s out there: Thanatos with his butterfly mask shielding him from breathing the poppies, human mouths so hungry for each other they open and then open up some more—“until the day you die, world without end, amen.”
In van Gogh’s Butterflies and Poppies, he painted the sky last. You can tell from the blue paint on the flower stems.
Last year, the desert super bloom created a swarm. Millions of butterflies after the long, hard rain.
I do not want your body to transform my body. The bare cloth of the skin is visible.