Above the ears, below the waist

This entry is part 17 of 42 in the series Antiphony: Paul Zweig


I’m reading Paul Zweig. This is the sixth poem in the second section of his Selected and Last Poems, followed by my response. See here for details.

Robinson Crusoe’s Notebooks
by Paul Zweig

When I am alone,
the world becomes an erotic dream.
Sex boils in my shoes…

[Remainder of poem removed 9-24-05]

* * * *

John the Baptist’s Final Sermon

Whose tongues tick, whose lips move in whispers
as if to raise lost consonants from the dead?
I am that man just off-stage, in the prompter’s box.
If I find willing ears, they will hear me
the way I see the world: askance.

Madam, I am no Adam, giving creatures their names
while his still-ignorant member wandered in his lap.
Male & female, says the scripture, hermaphroditic
were they made to gambol along the edge
of unpronounceable vision – through dreams, perhaps,
or in the margins of a hand-drawn map.
But then the names leapt like sparks from a campfire,
setting their fur alight, & scorched them into awareness.

We who are among all creatures the most naked:
unto us is given the most excruciating consciousness.
I remember how it burned for weeks, that circumcision.
I remember the crown of an infant’s head, right
at the moment of birth: apple of its mother’s eye, full
to bursting. And an even more pregnant fullness I recall,
among glossalalia & the moving shapes of shadows,
in which this Life was shouted into being.

Whatever is holy is almost unbearable.
One cannot proclaim the Word with unclean lips
or catch more than a glimpse of holy Presence
& expect to live. How could such immensity
restrict itself to a name on the tongue or
an image within the heart, within the head?

But dipped in the waters of rebirth,
the Anointed One prepares his terrible crown.
Everything above the ears becomes a place apart –
& then the whole rest of him, of us, because
for the longed-for future ever to descend,
we are commanded to cleave to just such single-
mindedness, O Salome.

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