Madness Between Friends

The three musketeers of a good argument are

Logos, Pathos, and Ethos

The tactician, devious and cool; the beast, brave and a fool; the character, charming and dandy

Pick and mix and throw them into the sky

Pin d’Artagnan with a stray paper-clip

Untie, with silver tongue, the endless knot that binds honor round his belly

We have no time for swashbuckling, we modern-day Dorian Grays; our picture hangs

Not in the attic but flits between screens like a butterfly in a jar, or a moth with spots of rouge

On its cheeks; these days it’s easy enough to dress up for truth if one has the cheekbones

The stomach or the pocket lining for it. Caviar sums it up—Fish eggs: we eat life with wine, and why

Here’s a funny story—King Tut told the devil ‘you will not break me’ and disintegrated

On his own, to prove it, into a gold-leaf cubicle

He has red chewed fingernails, the devil, his cuticles jaundiced by tobacco

A nicotine patch on either eye

A three-eyed dog—or was it three heads

Once in a while we play hide-and-seek amid a herd of painted sheep

Because he’s sad these days and lonely, too, smoking like a chimney out of wood

And he usually lives in his cell at the bottom of a broken spiral

Because the ground’s too soft for cloven hooves—pressure, you see

Internal stresses make us hard and brittle, like heat-treated steel

The white knight in shining armor feeling spurned turns bitter

Like burnt coffee, bypasses the heart and goes straight to disembowelment

Try it, break a mug over your mug and see if it wakes you up any

Shoot yourself in the foot with adrenaline junk and act surprised

When nothing happens, punk. This is a cheap rerun of a more convincing story

I’d write a proper political piece if I thought anyone would read it

Pretty and pallid like a Gallo-Roman column, for me to hide behind

Obscurity, my only ally, does its best to keep me honest

Amid the falling marble. I just hope that

Madness, catching up like a gallows gunman on a crippled horse

Gives me enough of a lead to hang myself with—my self

From the cliff facing the brink

Perhaps I’ll need a push and in that case I’ll call the ocean up from the seashell I found

Behind the floorboards of my living room

To sweep me past the edge like the line of dirt on the floor

Which defies a dustpan like cocaine to a broken nose

Scattered out the door. Still

Sacredness cuts through like diamond-facet-sharpened light

No, that’s not quite right, it’s not a knife; I’m not being facetious, I would like to make beautiful things

Like you but it’s so. damn. hard. because this paper is a white mirror

Turned black when I looked, like stale dark roast. I tried

Sugar-coating my bile-full brain by throwing a duvet over a rock but it did nothing to soften

The blow. By and by, and back to sacredness or beauty or whatever you call your reason for living

Call it the Great Mutation—wine from water

Blood from wine, life from blood and the golden dust falling over Dorian’s chlorine eyes

Ignited through the crooked pane in his attic window. Rich folks are so concerned

With keeping the devil in his dungeon, but light isn’t partial, it’ll go anywhere, even black holes

They’re just too dense to let it show, like us

Minds: mine’s a salt-caked Ford careening through space

With Schrodinger’s catalytic converter, and I’ll chug on

Because I know that this

THIS in faded spray-paint stenciled on a hundred dusty boxcars

Is the kind of sooty engine-blackened death-cooled coal that burns itself to ash. Therefore

I will feed the wolf sitting on my chest growling at my throat; I’ll feed that savage bastard till he’s fat

And fit to burst, and then I’ll fix his big broken heart with a pat on the head to prove

That you can teach an old dog new tricks

Like fetching tossed-up honor; you should try it

Tyr, the old world soldier, gave a hand; Odin an eye and me, we’ll see

It’s a tricky thing that people like to talk about without getting

Like Love but not so On The Nose—honor

Hits you in the nuts and knocks the baritone bravado

Out your gut like beauty in blue eyes shining through your peacock plumage poetry slam sham

See there, the horse is limping and I’m trying to hold the water despite everything I write

You ask why: I can only say that

A man’s a man for all that, and we’re all cursed for the taste of caviar. One for all and all for one

And we must take the salt as it comes with the tide, though perhaps it’s time to kiss the sturgeon

And find something else to die for

Like the dancer in the spotlight liberating the gloomy room with her frozen pose

For instance, and the accompanied instant

Slapping the merciful moment like a raw steak to our third black eye

And the stalactites shattering when we see something beyond our concavity

And the smoke drifting from an empty smooth-bore like winter’s breath

Rising above the frosted tree-tops and kissing the edge of a mountain as

An earnest lover waxes eloquent over the slopes of life and death, and so it goes

But maybe I’m wrong about it all, or just this bit, or this and if so

By God what gives, since there’s glory in good humor without frivolity—even brashness has value

If it’s graceful; like poor vainglorious Porthos laughing at the face of fate

And love too, in sharing in laughter and beer and courage and fear; it’s all the same

Because one thing of which I’m certain is this place that we forget sometimes, up where

The brown bear sways his mighty titan bulk onto the river, noble

To earn his fish eggs

And I’m not sure I can ever explain why we should care except that we must

For these things we weave from sound and little black threads

To describe our own hopeless smoldering majesty

Are precious efforts

And pretty self-explanatory.

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