A Supermarket in New Jersey
The monks are setting themselves on fire, and the bees
have all but disappeared. Last night
Bruce Springsteen went to the supermarket―
the fancy one near his house, where
mangoes piled high like dragon eggs make him forget
the news. He pushes his red shopping cart
into the mortuary glow of the yogurt case,
the wheels impossibly smooth, this Bentley
of a cart full of snacks, and considers the tubs―
what to do about the honey flavor, he wonders,
about the taste of golden summer
depleted. Abundance is a mirage―
the monks know that. There are no poets
in the fruit. The wives are still in the avocados,
but he knows better than to write about them.
The sushi guy chops tuna belly,
a Chopin sonata. Children at this hour
are mostly pliant: shy grins
when Bruce Springsteen draws bananas like six-shooters,
tries to play O. K. Corral in the aisle, wishing he had
a cowboy hat. Popping like flashbulbs
under soft, overhead light, here are five different kinds
of grape, and for a second he finds himself
thinking, What could go wrong
in a world with five different kinds of grape?
Honeybees lost and the crops just go?
To say nothing of the harvest―children in the tomatoes.
Boys drink oil to explode from within
on main streets, in markets.
What would I burn for?
Bruce Springsteen wonders,
when he knows only the comfort
of the six-inch valley, the dull knife’s desire.
It is Peep season. Little armies
of chicken-shaped fluff, their sugared,
baleful stares. It is quiet, aside
from refrigerators humming and the tender
mist of water over the greens.
You can’t price a kerosene fire by weight,
Bruce Springsteen murmurs,
pats his pocket for a pencil, thinks,
That’s a good one, save.
Forgive me, Walt Whitman, I called to you.
There ain’t no Eden in this Garden State.
—after the painting by Velázquez
And there stands the Infanta Margarita—
the ugly daughter—a loose translation
but certain as baroque panel dresses,
as the mastiff at the feet of the fool. My joy,
the king calls her in his letters. A diamond
for my joy, for my brother’s new wife.
Things were different in those days, rough
for a Habsburg girl, all your inbred
flaws rendered in exquisite, theological
detail. Oof—that forehead. But her father
loves her. He gave her a diamond,
a fancy gray-blue number like
the Hope, now cut and recut until
culture itself curled up and died, sh-boom.
What do we lose with the flaws, anyway?
And oh, those lesser maids—little beauties
uncertain of their fathers, catching
the edges of Margarita’s holy light.
It’s a living. There will be studies. Always
more portraits, artists—Hello, hello again.
Over my friend’s desk, a clown-
handed stick figure labeled DAD!,
shock-topped stick kids pogo-ing
around him. The physics are shaky,
but the smiles could cut glass.
Trust me, little maid, if you can—
your father, he loves you
and this is not a dream, though you are
still not the last Habsburg, only
a girl in first or second grade.
What war could she wage
in that dress, anyway? It is time for
Easter Mass, sh-boom. Assemble
the maids. My father’s letters are formal
but he loved me, and he died—Hello,
hello again, little maid, little fool, my only
medal a diamond gleaming red on my chest.
When he goes, Bruce Springsteen declares
one night over dinner, let him go
to the body farm—compost unburied
somewhere on two acres of bloodroot,
witch hazel, carpet of leaves. Let him be
useful, he mumbles over tacos,
never mind that he’s not mountain-born,
that salt water won’t rust his belt buckle
down. He wants to train dogs to find
those gone missing with the memory
of moldering ruin when they hunt—
because a body should know how to be
found. If undone is what we already are,
let us clasp our hands: holy horsefly,
maggot, wasp. Bruce Springsteen
knows if you sing backup for a body
on a resurrection song, you are open to
certain ideas beyond Cleveland, Memphis,
beyond Viking ship fossils and boots, still
life with ball cap, a life-sized wax doll.
Bruce Springsteen is aware of the finite
lease, of nitrogen and a dramatic change
in pH. A body gets dangerous in a shallow
grave. A body gets eaten so many odd
ways, a smile stretches up through
the beetles. The dogs recognize
the breakdown is everything. But where will we
lay our guitar picks in tribute, our silk flower
wreaths on Memorial Day? Bruce Springsteen says
leave only footprints, and a rotting arm.
A body should know how to find its father.
A dog can be trained to hunt. Everything
changes: the wonderful and awful truth.
Keep your trash, little girl, your candlewax
weeping, your match light winked out
by the dew. Pick up a leaf, red as
bandanas, press it in wind-rattled pages.
Don’t apologize for your live nerves.
Carve your name on the face of the mountain.
Pocket a rock mistaken for bone.