Mudlark Poster No. 41 (2002)

Mark DeCarteret

Nothing New | If the pig had to fly | The Gate
Alchemy is Not in My Vocabulary | Surplus | The Lore of the Extinct
Toward a Definition of Farewell | The Same Only Different

Mark DeCarteret was born in Lowell MA in 1960 and has lived within an hour or two drive ever since. His poetry has recently appeared in CONDUIT, HUNGER MAGAZINE, PHOEBE, SALT HILL, 3rd BED, and AMERICAN POETRY: THE NEXT GENERATION (Carnegie Mellon Press, 2000). His books of poems are OVER EASY (Minotaur Press, 1991), REVIEW: A BOOK OF POEMS (Kettle of Fish Press, 1995), and THE GREAT APOLOGY (Oyster River Press, 2001).

Nothing New

When the rustling spread to your inner ear
off came the medals, the goatee.
Mopped up, those silhouettes, floated
to the surface in pantomimed hysterics.
No one has shrunk more economically.
Been treated to such excruciating gruel.

This winter I’ll lug what has ended up you
to the hilltop of cypress and whistling skulls.
I’ll spoil you with talk of your line. Your impenetrable images.
How you shat in a box and we called it exquisite.
Engaged those hypothetical empires from your cell,
this deplorable beetle bottled up in a radio.

I’m still stunned by the ability to provoke. Reinjure.
The daily enquiries into shrouded cadavers.
A pan next to the pen percolating with gristle and slugs.
Someone once leaked you feared everything but the word.
But then, so much more has been forgotten,
the bulk of what we speak mismanaged by shrugs.

So the world has its wish, I am washed up, benign.
The sun has stamped its trademark to our lids.
No longer beholden to fables where donkeys dine with kings,
all the fury and fill quakes indistinguishable in dreams.
I move this cruel arm as if wired. Even the table perplexed into shavings.
Only your ghosts, and their prospects, will I have failed.

If the pig had to fly

he’d buy a big jet and hop
to any sty on the map—
try out the mud in L.A.,
in Fes or in Rio, sip
rum as he sat in the sky
and if the pig had to fly
but was too fat for a jet
or a lag had him ill,
his mug to a bag he’d use
a hit of gas and run off
a tor the red hue of dun
zig and zag in the air
lit up and hot as the sun
and if the pig had to fly
but a bee was to pop him
he’d fit a jay to his arm
and an owl to his leg,
end up at a bar by the sea,
by a cup of joe on ice
and the slo-nip of gin
and if the pig had to fly
but all he got was a jag,
a bad rub at the pub,
the sad sot of a pig he’d
dig up a how-to, a why
not to aid his not so ego—
pat the pot of the god
in all of us, lap the pie
in the sky for a wee sum
and if the pig had to fly
but the tip was a fib,
an out and out lie
he’d put on a wig,
a shy ink per lid,
and try to get a man
to pay for his jar—
the sly bid of an ale,
for all is mum on the set
and the red ray of eye
is met and the pig has let
the guy in the net
pet his leg, paw his bum,
win the joy of his bed
and if the pig had to fly
but the gig was a bad rap,
a tag on one sex
he’d do it all any
how he’d eke out or eat up,
ram, cut, if and or but in,
hit, sit, put on, get off
for the pig has to fly,
yes, the pig has to fly.

The Gate

says no pets
& yet while I listen
to a bell swallow song
after song sweetest
trickle of tongue
I nearly slip
on a half-eaten mole
its head a wet blossom
its body disaster
this dismissed asterisk
never simpler to see
what once were my feet
going on without me
a stick figure stricken
w/the unrest of trees
& the rest of the forest
birds invisible w/insects
leaves close to threats
one arrives far away
eyes identical puddles
all-knowing veneer
a day clearly losing
itself in its own reflection
crane knee-deep in water
minnows lifeless
on the bottom of my foot
fragile note attached
& the closer one looks
there will always be
something more
still than oneself.

Alchemy is Not in My Vocabulary

These thoughts will never be mine.
These words unlike anything else.

I try talking my tongue through hoops of fire.
Ringing out the sponge of more sweat.

There’ll always be something of the bird in me
recollecting the air and where it used to be.

Like loitering in the void.
The crudest of curse delivered inward.

Still, I’m left with this delicate stare.
The stitched mannerisms of the champ.

Sucked in in gusts by the awestruck.
They can tell by the way I walk my dog.

The way I contra dance to the contraband.
That I’m exiled from both tribe and my idiot-self.

Always seized by the journey itself.
The sudden reversal of blood.

Fingers snap and I take leave.
A parted river and a thirst.


Tomorrow my luck will have changed.
I’ll have pulled myself together.

In some ways good as saved.
This took guts.

The Lore of the Extinct

The wind leaves its symptoms on the ice.
Underneath, fish are muffled again.

Here, we are instrument and bone.
Soon, testimony to bewilderment and science.

I used to blink once and it all disappeared.
Now, I’m a mess, a continuous twitch.

Maybe this or that year’s reinstated by a friend
during small-talk at a get-together.

For one, it’s the painful proposal of a cigarette.
Another, an impulse terminated with bliss.

You make for the droplight forgetting
you once were a shaman strapping carcasses to my mailbox,

dropped to all-fours reading the droppings of my herd.
We shudder with optimisim, the festivities sent out to sea.

Oh, the tidiness of unfathomable depths!
My newest packaging. An infinitesimal bray.

Toward a Definition of Farewell

Re: settlement of dust,
the series of letters never sent—
words once a must
to unfetter, now better
off. Unmeant.

   *   *   *

Ruined breaths I can’t keep track of.
This subliminal love.

   *   *   *

Yesterday, I looked
at the ocean & saw
ocean: today, I looked again & saw
I knew nothing.

   *   *   *

Everybody gives in at once.
Finally, fixtures in the funhouse.

   *   *   *

Re: knots of air,
the deliberation of birds—
it would seem the word followed last
will always be

The Same Only Indifferent

At a point where I’m defined
more by the holes in my story
than I am by the wood I sprout
or the pen with its belly of blue
discharged from my fingers,
so full of ideas my chin’s
messy with them, what chance
do I have of convincing you
of the next line’s credibility?

With the scheming of throat,
the slips I’ve stored for years?
I am only sure of the surf
by the shouts I’ve left behind.
Where I tell you I’ve been,
where the told will cave in,
not a doubt or a spark,
just some tires on the bridge
singing home after home.

My mind has no give to it.
Always occupied with itself
and what it can’t get away with.
These starlings make no case
for their flight. The wind has fucked
playing it safe. But I’ll contort
and succumb and let you score me.
Not unlike an arcade’s distempered moan.
His head, at times, shivering with gnats.

What has washed up in pieces
has restored the shore to order.
I think of ways it came to be.
The ploys not to be reckoned with.
So what if the head of the seal
seems only the sea’s conjecture.
This whisker of light suggests
otherwise, what is left of
my memory turned inside out.

Copyright © Mudlark 2002
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