Religion is a gesture of overt metaphor.
Literature mostly accidental metaphors
the writer meant as gestures. Moments
presupposed to be meaningful rarely are.
Attention is the fourth wheel on a grocery cart,
where the grocery cart is your mind
and attention the one wheel not always touching,
but it can swivel in its bearings and catch,
allowing you to ricochet across the aisle,
to slam your agile mind into a wall
of crackers. When a man separates himself
from others, it is unclear whether it makes him
more or less brave. Tom got sick bravely,
collapsed in the A&P bravely & a stock boy
phoned the ambulance bravely as Tom
convulsed in a pile. Here the metaphor falls apart,
because Tom’s mind couldn’t be the cart
wheel-down watching his body revolt,
couldn’t be filled up to bring home
as bones became ill-fit for their cases.
Metaphors house this strange sadness:
a box of stale saltines. Tom will die on a floor,
but not this one, and words grow thin
describing his disease and its advance,
but for now Tom rises and his mind
is surely with him. The small braveries
make it less difficult to give loss a name.
A body is just what we’re filled up with.
This is like some grave dug for the wrong plot
so then it’s empty of men but still covered in dirt
and fresh with meaning, and it rains
so grass grows and people walk by nodding
like it means something more
than somewhere there’s a man,
dug himself a hole, and then was told to fill it.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.