Word/ For Word # 2

Ken Rumble




This thing I call myself is only a pattern --
a bastardized merengue, some spins, a twist

Atoms, brains, smoke, rats, and sparks --
            a conveyor of material from one body
            to another equal body
-- a bonfire by Lake Fairlee
the Fourth of July I was six: whole trees,
cut and dried for the occasion, burned.
From ten feet away, radiating heat
filled me like water through sand--
behind me the chill air in my shape.

A priest, a chemist, and a blind man walk into a bar.
They drink champagne all night. The chemist
tells the story about the sheep that learned to talk
who walked around all day saying, Carl Malone
is the greatest drummer since Vivaldi
. The priest
told the story about the bear and rabbit sitting
in the woods. The blind man talked about the daddy longlegs
whose venom was deadly, but whose fangs couldn't pierce
flesh. When the bar closed they all went home.
The next night they went back to the bar. The priest
and chemist say to the bartender, How many horseshoes
will you take for the chairs?
The bartender says, Start counting.
The blind man says, Champagne, please? Two hours later
the blind man's drunk, talking to the waitress. Do you know
about the connection between hip-hop and the Jacobin Revolution?

The next day the blind man returns and again
drinks champagne and talks to the waitress named Martha.
Three years later the blind man and Martha are married.
She opens a furniture store with lottery winnings
and he becomes a stand-up comedian.

Rippling across the face of Lake Fairlee, the image
of clouds drifts from shore to shore as the image
of itself a form in the image of form.

The phosphorus in the brain of a rat
is not the phosphorus
that was there two weeks ago.

That night on Lake Fairlee appears over the desk,
overlapping like two reels of film, the way cold spring
water slides beneath the warmer water of the lake
into minnows and snails. I'm in two places
seeing with two sets of eyes.
I've remembered the moment before. I rest
my pen in a trapezoid of sun on my desk -- above me,
the serrated edges of the pines
sway black against the purple night.

To the core, get to the core of the thing.
Get to the core and go.
Peaches have more pesticide than any other fruit.
Lake Fairlee is two miles long.
The Dutch Safety Council found that wooden clogs
were safe enough for construction work.
Glass is a viscous liquid.
Nearly half of all the world's
lakes are in Canada.
Cat whiskers are hollow.
As the man said,
hit it 'n quit.

How I learned merengue:
my Costa Rican host family,
            my father was Marlon Brando--
                       big and deep,
                                  a Guanacaste godfather who clicked the maracas in a mariachi
                                  and owned the local mechanic shop,
invited the girl,
            sixteen like me,
next door to teach my feet to speak merengue.
After a day teaching the rural children to scrub their teeth--
            ariba a bajo veinte veces,
                       I knocked the mango tree in my family's back yard with a stick
                       catching the green/red lobes as they fell.
            the dance instructor--
                       muy bonita y de buen corazón,
called to me from her second floor window
where she leaned out against her crossed arms on the window lip
like the figurehead blessing the front of a ship:
            Ken, regalame un mango.
I threw them up to her one after another
after another after another as she leaned out,
to clutch them from the air,
                       she told me to stop before I stripped the tree bare.
Then she peeled a mango,
            doused it with salt,
                       ate it down to the pith.

The fireworks felt like I burst with them.
The web of my lungs and ribs expanded
with each boom. On thin wings run through with veins,
bats pinwheeled after ash
like dark falling stars. It's an argument
without any

Here's another about 4th of July Lake Fairlee, Vermont:
earlier, after lunch while we'd been waiting for dark,
we passed up the asp-haired beauty who'd reportedly
lived for 500 years, the man who tried to count
to a vigintillion by ones, the world's smallest half-pony
half-crocodile, and watched a sad man in white-face
make a box out of air. He pushed against it
from all angles, he tried the stairs,
the escalator, and the elevator, tried
to pry up a corner, but couldn't escape
until he reached down his throat and pulled
out a long string with a key dangling
from the end. With a Cadillac smile, he unlocked
the door, stepped out, and my breath
went with him.

Core today, gone tomorrow.

Merengue --
the national dance of the Dominican Republic,
established about 1844, a blend of African
and Spanish influences, fast paced and wildly
popular in New York City -- depends on
the sliding step, 1 and 2 and 1 and 2 and 1 and 2, and
spins and spins and spins and spins.



[contributors' notes]