A Week of Kindness

cover of Une Semaine de Bonté by Max Ernst
This entry is part 1 of 19 in the series Une Semaine de Bonté


cover of Une Semaine de Bonté by Max Ernst
cover of Une Semaine de Bonté by Max Ernst (Dover edition, 1976)

The seven deadly elements fight
like nestlings for our worms.
Death is without end

and therefore never as shapely
as my morning eggs.
Don’t misconstrue the ouroboros:

it’s not consuming but giving birth,
having just crawled out of
its own mouth.

I wake every day of the week thinking
it’s enough to follow
the warm curves of the earth

wherever they lead, though I know
it’s nowhere good.
And each day I dress

as if to the funeral of a blackbird
seizing every kindness by the hair.


This entry is part 2 of 19 in the series Une Semaine de Bonté


Une Semaine de Bonté: illustration from the cardboard slipcase of the 1934 edition

Goatweed goatweed how you brighten
my waste places with your yellow stars

blossoming in the deep space between
my shoulder blades, where the sun’s

too weak to rise. Like any lover
you make me dizzy and anxious, I can’t

get it up any more and you play
badly with other medicines, such as

dust and pillbugs. Call me a shaman
fundamentalist, but my dry bones

have never felt more possessed of life.
In the otherworld I’m growing a green husk.


Une Semaine de Bonté: page 3 collage
This entry is part 3 of 19 in the series Une Semaine de Bonté


Une Semaine de Bonté: page 3 collage
Une Semaine de Bonté: page 3

My first crush was a statue:
strong and silent, noble
to a fault. Realer

than the dead general
he memorialized, for his triumph
was far less fleeting.

He kept his chin up
no matter what, weathering
every pigeon. His head

was like a moon, blotchy
with seas. As for me,
I didn’t want to be seen

with my head of a beast
like an ass-backwards sphynx.
Small dogs assaulted

the space I’d left
intentionally absurd,
uniformed like a unisex fireplug,

gruff as a gryphon. I huffed
glue till my syntax collapsed
and I came unglued.

A war blew in and they drafted
my soldier, melted him down
and cast him into shot.

Breast Man

This entry is part 4 of 19 in the series Une Semaine de Bonté


Une Semaine de Bonté, page 4

They have never stopped watching me
or reminding me of my own,
inferior pair that cannot shoot
sweetness at the world’s
avid mouths. They lurk
in mirrors and behind drapes,
disguise themselves as crockery,
solar flares, or bells that ring
backwards: wholly holy.
If they were ever to blink,
we would all disappear—
let’s keep them under wraps
and over underwires where
they’ll be safe. Only then can men
preserve our immense dignity
and not tremble like virgins
at the sight of them,
for the truth is they are the most
human thing.

Manic Pixie Dream Consultant

This entry is part 5 of 19 in the series Une Semaine de Bonté


from Max Ernst’s “Une Semaine de Bonté” (p. 5)

Even as your figment I have my limits.
I will not, for example,
join your network on LinkedIn.
I will neither architect nor incubate
your cloud-based growth strategies.
Deep dives into data are dangerous
if you’re boiling the ocean. Best
to circle back and drill down—
but let mine be the box you think
outside of. I charge by the minute
and day-dreaming is not—
to paraphrase Bill Gates—
an efficient allocation of time resources.
I am not your low-hanging fruit,
and at the end of the day, you can’t
leverage my deliverables or turn
me into another sounding board.
You don’t need me. Given
your mouth’s open-door policy,
you’re hollow enough to echo
anything back.

Lord of Misrule

This entry is part 6 of 19 in the series Une Semaine de Bonté


Page 6 from Une Semaine de Bonté by Max Ernst

In her image the sun made me
round and ornately petaled,

burning and erupting
in feathery plumes. Don’t stare!

I was the Sun King.
Shadows radiated away from me

like the teeth of my enemies
strung on a reckless necklace.

That’s not a mugger’s knife
but a prisoner of earth’s desperate attempt

to pick my lock. I was, after all,
the state. Why must I now perform

for the forgotten and forgettable?
Why have I not limped like a blimp

into the humped clouds? I can’t seem
to shake this legacy of lead,

asteroids roaring in the vacuum
of my farcical heart.

Lilium martagon

This entry is part 7 of 19 in the series Une Semaine de Bonté


Page 7 from Une Semaine de Bonté by Max Ernst

The Turk’s cap lily is one of summer’s
most exotic blooms. How sumptuous
they can be as dark varieties, springing open
to curl back on themselves and reveal why
they are called the Turk’s caps.
All have a flash of orange pollen
which is lethal to cats.
As little as two leaves or part of a single
flower have resulted in deaths.
Clinical signs of lily intoxication
include salivation, vomiting, anorexia and depression.
Polyuric renal failure leads to dehydration
and anuric renal failure and death results.
The public must be made aware—
the majority cannot correctly identify
the plants in their own homes.
I first saw this European Turk’s cap
running wild among the bright Astrantia.
The scent of a lily is an incredible thing.

Lines repurposed from Dan Pearson, “Turk’s cap lily is pure delight“. The Guardian (21 July 2013) and Kevin T. Fitzgerald, “Lily toxicity in the cat“. Topics in Companion Animal Medicine 25: 213–7 (2010).

Cat Person

This entry is part 8 of 19 in the series Une Semaine de Bonté


Page 8 from Max Ernst’s Une Semaine de Bonté

Let me down one cat a time:

  • the cat that wakes me by sitting on my face
  • the cat that ignores me
  • the cat that pushes vases off of tables
  • the cat that was once magic but now just lies around and gets fat
  • the cat that kills birds out of irritation at their wings
  • and the cat that disappears in the middle of a sentence
    like a body flung from a bridge while the soul
    carries on, oblivious,
    yowling about the goddamn hunter’s moon.

Escape Artist

This entry is part 9 of 19 in the series Une Semaine de Bonté


Page 9 from Max Ernst’s Une Semaine de Bonté

Every wall is a sea wall, built to keep out
something that is already inside,
running through our veins.

My ship has come in, hold full
of the Jesus fish I’m returning
to their native parables.

We’ve all forgotten how to migrate,
though our ancestors the trees
were clearly transhumant,

and even now have a yearly
jubilee for their leaves.
This leave-taking is my gospel

and there are undersea forests of kelp
that have yet to hear it. They rock
and roll—it is said—all night long.

Their every surface is a tongue
free of Pentecost. They are precious
in the eyespots of echinoderms,

who have cultivated great detachment
and learned how to regrow themselves
from a single, severed limb.

With this kind of movable feast,
who needs the state and its miserable
no-fly lists! Are we not birds?


This entry is part 10 of 19 in the series Une Semaine de Bonté


Page 10 from Max Ernst’s Une Semaine de Bonté

Patchwork walls
of a threadbare town:
homeless streetlights,
vagrant intersections.
Oh what charming ruins

the inhabitants must be—
snaggletoothed and ravaged
by their appetites,
huddled around kerosene
heaters and coal stoves.

I’ve heard they’re dangerous,
cling to guns and religion.
Don’t talk to them!
I’m sure they don’t share
our progressive views.

Still, let’s bring awareness
to their plight with
a hashtag. So reassuring,
that pound sign’s
tidy arrangement of bars.