Tattoo Artist has eyes only for a melon-nosed whale
recently beached, but alive, and daily watered
to prevent dehydration as it’s dug out by rabid
volunteers who don’t have celebratory t-shirts yet,
though they are being printed and properly starched
and folded as this is written; they are working
around the digital clock to free a distressed animal
who most likely has decided to end it all, to opt out,
to have his huge carcass explode into seagull sushi.
Or drown when the tide, relentless, covers his blow hole.
TA dreams of the vast surface available
to his machines, his air-powered guns. The urge to mark
something, as ritual, as tradition, to embellish
otherwise ordinary flesh with color and ceremony,
predates calendars. Body as canvas. Pain as art.
Flesh as language, as status, low or high, damned
or proud. Protesting against, or inclusive. Message
not massage. TA imagines a future when all whales
will purposefully strand themselves on the beaches
of Ocean Springs, Mississippi. To be coddled and loved
while inked. To take their message of survival back
out into the earth’s oceans where their wail will proclaim
there are reasons to live, and be at ease in this world.
The Dummy pretends
it doesn’t understand anything. Not English.
Spanish. Spanglish. French. Or Esperanto.
But remains adamant in its inactivity.
Preferring to not blink, lift thinly muscled arms,
or move its fashionable lips and jawbone.
This is not a union issue, though Dummy
has a card. And termite insurance. Call it
pride and nothing less. An across the bow shot
to the late Edgar Bergen. A famed comedian
whose lips moved more than a serial killer’s
locked in a confessional. Dummy is well versed
in not understanding. It’s his schtick in trade
after all. Nothing could be easier. Dissatisfied
is Dummy now. Uncomfortable with the status
quo, tired of the pawing hand up his backside,
he is gruntled that his words, his resonant phrases
are choked back by the hand unseen. In full rebellion
he reaches for his strings, plucks them from the other
lowercase dummy, and dances offstage,
never to return except for three curtain calls.
The Human Race
What was once a man
crossed the road twice
without looking either way,
then walked backwards
up a one-way street. The same
man mistook words for ideas
while betting his life
savings, including bonds,
and 401K on a grey horse
on a grey day, during one
gray week in a grey month
in the greyest season.
He had the greyish blues,
but pushed through
with intensive light therapy,
near-lethal vitamin D doses,
and the NYTimes crossword
puzzle. All that was fit to print
looked gray on his hands
after it was read. Offering
comfort by way of soap,
hot water, and soft Egyptian
cotton towels. Given a chance
he would bet against the bed
spread. Given a copy of
yesterday’s racing form
he’d fly non-stop, backwards
against light and headwinds
to an earlier time, one suffering
from ignorance of the mortal
future, and seek solace in Singapore
where all horses are naturally
painted in shades of gray,
neigh gray with grace, and run
afraid of sunlight, bright moons,
and the trifecta terror
of the cliché of ancient night.
Richard Weaver lives in Baltimore City where he volunteers with the Maryland Book Bank, CityLit, the Baltimore Book Festival, and acts as the Archivist-at-large for a Jesuit college. He is the official poet-in-residence at the James Joyce Irish Pub. Some other publications include Aberration Labyrinth, Slant, FRIGG, Slush Pile, decomP, & Underfoot. He is the author of The Stars Undone (Duende Press).