On a Portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger
At this distance–for all of his presence, his
personality–that blue jay fits within
three pixels of my window screen.
The time has come
to alter the universe. Don’t you feel it?
That beginning. A single unforeshadowed phantom–
yet precise, explicit–prick.
Akin to a thumbtack in your heel. Or the crying need
for a cigarette after two years or twenty years, or for
your dead grandfather’s opinion, delivered
from his deeply impressed green leather armchair.
It will not stop pacing,
hard heels beating in your chest. It’s not enough
to move some dust around: dust moves: that’s its nature.
It’s not enough to cheat at solitaire. The truth
of the game is that–alone with the rules
your mother smacked onto your butt
and the world has variously enticed,
prayed and demanded–you must cheat
now and then.
The need, itch, is intolerable
as estrus. If I were still promiscuous,
a bowlegged and tail-swishing cat in rut,
I would lean across that young man’s desk, impinge
on his boundaries, press him
into his dandy collar with my want. Oh,
to be that single-minded, able to leap
a man and climb him like a pole. And afterwards
stand in a window and preen
myself sleek as a seal.
You reorient your desk.
Throw out all of your makeup brushes–
as they say you ought. Say something
that will scrub that smug look
off the face of that bureaucrat with the power
to make your life a comfort for a few months
or a hell. You do, however feeble,
something. Suicide. Homicide. Call
wrong numbers in the middle of the night. Speed.
Waiting for the siren you deserve, feel satisfied.
You can’t just flee. When you have to
alter the universe you have to
alter the universe, if with nothing
but an inappropriate sigh or scream.