By Dan Chiasson, from Bicentennial: Poems, to be published next year by Knopf. Chiasson teaches at Wellesley College.
Little bird, little sugar cube,
Tell me all the state secrets
Of the crab apple, barberry, brake,
The concealed locales, the plots
Only you can unravel, my figurine,
O my collectible dinnerware,
I’ve hunted everywhere for answers;
Answer me, my New Jersey kingpin,
My flower hoarder, electronic eye,
My wind-up mini-Frankenstein;
If I speak into your corsage,
And say it slowly, so we both nod off:
My father died, nor was he at the height
Of his career as a bowler, nor
Had he discovered the cure for NASCAR—
Quite without fanfare, little jackass,
O my severely damaged little friend,
He died, and what I felt, pea pod,
Projection, tired device, was shy:
Surely you can identify, flight risk,
Going from unconscious whim to whim
As though the forest was only scenery?
I settle for thick yogurt, bird,
While you get to eat the scenery.
I’m one of the whims, fatherless
In this brand-new way, observing as
My father’s features idle inside
And thicken my sons’ cheekbones:
Where did you come by your business casual,
Your sturdiness and eerie sobriety
Auditing the Spring’s enormous income
While I piss my windfall zilch away?