Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Patrick Lane: The Boy in the Corner


let me tell you a
of men and how they really are the
most difficult of things
is understanding not the
what or how or who or even when
for these are things of the seen world
facts both knowable attributable
generally understandable
what is left what baffles is
poetry cannot save us

he feels the room around him,
the way what little light there is
will not reach into the corners

but it can provide some small redemption
perhaps we can talk of something
not able to tell with absolute preciseness
what it is that we are speaking of
but can tell enough in such a way
as to leave the image of that
of which is spoken

the boy’s father
killing the cat in the garage

the boy’s father
having begun all of it
now somehow trapped
starting to cry too

the boy’s father doesn’t know
why he does this thing
this father knows not what he does


the boy in the corner
can tell us

the boy in the corner
who would be a writer someday
watched everything very closely
how as they watched
his brother push the sausage in
they had become thin
their faces shining
narrow and white drawn in
by this foul act
this violation
as if it were some irresistible call
he saw a woman with a child
go down under a black horse
as the rider leaned across
like a polo player
and struck her across the shoulders
and as she fell
took the baby by the heels
and smashed it against the wall

it is senseless these things
why do they happen?

the boy in the corner
and he will help us
the immense complexity
of this night


he wanted to share with her
something he had
but there was nothing he had saved
except a piece of bread
saved from breakfast

she told him
when he was still a boy
she had slept with his father
only once

she did not tell him to go away
she did not call out to him
he watched her touching his friend
the look in her eyes
which his friend mistook for love
she took him to the shed in the field
behind the house
sat very close to him
and as each match flared
she would hold it to his skin
then she opened his mouth
burning his tongue and lips

the pain is the pain of the outward
she said
later I will teach you the other pain
she said
you will be ready to breathe fire

so he took his mother’s sewing basket
took her needles
and shaking only a little
pushed them through the skin
sitting there he realized
for the first time
how dangerous he was

he cannot be hurt by anyone
if he knows he can hurt himself more

that night
when his friend was teaching
he had made love to her
and after, she asked him
not to tell
as if betrayal were made easier
with promises

the woman his friend had traveled there for
had taken a soldier instead, saying,
he likes to dress up in my clothes

she reminded him of a vulture
he had seen
the woman there was all flesh
this century would never paint her
she was nothing
she didn’t belong to anybody

he would make her understand the room
thirty inches by thirty inches
where he could stand but could not sit
he would take her to this place
and make her understand
through attention to detail
the legs swelling, the light
the thin cage of wire
show her what had been done to him
so she would understand then
he would go to her saying he was sorry
it was something men do
like songs in another language
which is never translated
and which the singers had to memorize
and going to her singing it
singing it
he will make her love him

shape her love by shaping himself
giving himself to her
in the exactness of her integrity

and so

becoming less

this was not what he had wanted
and he does not know where he is
or what is left
only what is gone

there was nothing
except the piece of bread
he had meant to give
to the birds at twilight

but it was night now
and he had forgotten them

look at what I have found
look at the bread

now that he was older
he liked the way they would stop
while they painted him

all the words in their minds
all the suffering intact
precise and imaginable

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