THE OCULIST'S PATIENT
Rise and look around you....
ON A CLEAR DAY
Alan Jay Lerner
It was as if by flipping a lens
I witnessed the world in that phoropter -
clear as baby skin and crisp at the edges.
Like the veins in leaves were mountain streams.
Like a pubic hair was a tall pine.
Later we stood in the alley behind his shop,
smoking and smelling Chinese food,
with me trying to describe what happened -
the bestowal of a mystical gift
on an unworthy without forewarning.
Being a paid devotee of science, of course,
he would have nothing to do with numinosity.
I almost completely understood,
having been there myself before the exam.
Yet there were spirits all around
in perfectly pressed tuxedos, ballroom gowns.
The iris of a cat was an obsidian ring.
An orphaned hubcap a full autumn moon.
JIMMY UNDER GLASS
Jimmy has ballooned behind bars,
minnow to blowfish,
and frankly it suits him.
The kid's been hard schooled
by the pack of tattooed Darwinians
suspended inside this aquarium
holding disinfected handsets
while searching the besieged eyes
of mothers and wives and girlfriends
weary of upending their hearts
twice a week for thirty minutes
to shake what remains back into the tank.
Slices of Jimmy's ear and nose
were first to go. Then his wristwatch
and gold chain. Then his t.v.
He's seen heads split on cinderblock
and vanish down toilets.
So the weight really does become him.
He's learning to cover his ass.
Enlarging not to perish in these depths.
I congratulate him on the phone.
What else can I do?
Reel him in for a seafood buffet?
He marked the unpaid candles
he lit at the side altars
of the musty old cathedral
in a little spiral notebook
his buried mother
had kept in her big purse
for reminders and grocery lists.
If he got answers
the saints would get their due.
It otherwise remained on the books.
So far he'd lined through
a court-halted eviction notice
and forgiven utility bill.
Eight successful plasma donations.
Ten quarters went into the slot.
Winter showed no mercy.
He mixed grain alcohol with orange juice.
Scraped the bottoms and sides of jars.
Slept in jeans and gray sweatshirts.
Late mornings he laid a taper
on the black wick of another sorrowful statue
before finding a carrel in the library
to carefully record his entry
while unthawing the ice in his bones.
Tony Yeykal's poems have appeared in Art World Quarterly, Blackheart Magazine, decomP Magazine and Emprise Review. He is a part-time distributor of medical goods to India, and has periodically granted himself long stretches of time to read, write, reflect and idle away the days. Two poets he holds in esteem are Joseph Brodsky and Robert Creeley.