I once spent five years writing
about a fox to figure out what kind
of man I am. Among the creatures
of Tompkins Square, it is clear
I am not a man at all, but a series
of shapes. It’s an illness, I am told,
this irresolute desire, these hands
that fall through whatever they touch.
The feeling of loss is amphetamine.
I am always looking to synthesize
my failures. Behold my jaunty hat
which jingles as I cry. Behold the pentagram
freshly carved into my scalp. I speak
all of the languages of tenderness,
including those that require a frying pan
struck quickly to the face, including the one
where I torch my father’s house while he sleeps,
including the apocryphal dialect where I am dressed
as a lobster and then boiled. Sometimes
trauma is a prerequisite for softness.
It depends on where you’re from,
and who you ask, but you should always ask.
The child shouts at me, “scatter squirrel,”
even though I am not a squirrel,
even though the squirrel is directly next to me
I know he is talking to me. He will not drink
from the fountain until I am gone,
but the fountain is dry so I remain.
This is how I justify my presence
by only ever having a modicum
of information and then squandering it.
My body is much too magnanimous,
how it rises every day, how it knows
when to rest, even when I tell it not to.
How dependably I salivate
so that even when the fountain is dry
I can always drink from myself.
Maybe I am the squirrel after all.