Fleurs du Mal

You with baptismals and living mothers,
For whom the bells toll,
At whom the crickets of the veldt titter,
Even that swollen savage, fat in the Saharan sun,
Even my father and his useless red-clay gods,
Even the preacher on evening walks,
Casting out a million cankerworms.

Those never somethings,
Those never nothings.
Ye of little faith,
Some with pockets of truffles,
Some with trifles.

All who expired yesterday,
Breaking red in tooth, claw, and ticker tape.
Today, I’m starched erect with envy,
Unblemished by the serious misery I tout,
Menacing thankless eyes, I have mastered amphibians.
Much snakery, they comfort me,
Until the nameless wife whispers her wisdom
Come thru curtains: curse God and die.

I try, I tell her, I really do.
But human, my spine is weld up by awards and marmalade.
Just alive, these eyes,
With vista fires, agile jealousies,
Hair thinning, Calorie counting.
What a quest, what a queer.

Where now are them days when we feared debt and death?
Tickled by the smooth curves of her hermetic scythe,
By Angel Gabriel, his temper,
By the Second Coming, Jesu Christi!
By the four horsemen, one forty-four thousand redeemed,
By a side-dish of sulphuric Hell?
By Maman’s flying slippers, right as rain.

Where once sweet lust came quenched by dusk,
A stolen dust-kiss behind the school goalpost,
Fireflies, earthworms, and loamy soil between stone toes,
The preacher’s daughter and I:
Warm onion breath. Hard frisson.
Armed with unripe mangoes.
I. Impressed. God.
My abracadabra complete, with one quick swoop,
I held the fate of dragon and fireflies,
She fell. The way she has fallen since for fools.

When once no bottle-tipped fence,
No bullying girl named Nkechi,
No ‘Beware of Dog’ signs,
No leashed he-goat,
Stood too daunting to poke with a guava stick.
Gone, them happy days.

Now I gladly trade bales of this and that,
With the best of yous,
The worst of yous,
Them unhealthy tulips,
Your beloved browned dead,
Give me your milky filth,
Your sudden kaputs,
Your false starts,
Your vanquished chimera,
Your loose tooth,
Your sebaceous belly fat
Your sordid secrets,
Your fake orgasms,
Your bad kidneys,
Yesterday’s kidney beans,
Your dirty daughters,
Your incestual sons.
Give me, I beg, your mighty worst.
Crown me: Man.
Never human.

Let me be history.
That fine mystery.
Like I never was,
Petrichor, no rain,
Baby shoes, no baby,
Paragraphs, no misery,
Nostalgia, no whiskey,
Hope, no antidote.
Let me be.
Now, ain’t that a good boy?

Image credit: Destruction (1900) by Carlos Schwabe (July 21, 1866 – 22 January 1926), Swiss Symbolist painter and printmaker

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