The June Cuckold
SAMUEL, husband and cuckold
RAY, the rake
SCENE AS SUNG
(Enter, from the strawberry patch, Charlie and the Chorus. It is an early summer morning.)
The action takes place
at the Garden’s perimeter.
The County Manse comes into view.
Impure, the open-ended watering can
waters the audible grass.
By the gardener’s shed,
we pull old tissues from the trash,
eavesdropping all the while.
Morning dove hours.
Bereft, the plover, the sprinkler snake
embedded in cream-drop white flowers,
strawberry plants, velvet width possibility.
The hand plays the part—gray in gray in gray
sufficiency, we’re in England, after all.
Slight rain, slight fog, come anthill through
calligraphy to trace the facts, that’s the best.
See the family’s coat of arms imbued
with champagne bubbles, rosy circular reds,
bottom-lipped pinks. Fire escape looking
positively on a thin tin plate. Flinty taste.
The garden, deeply worked, a craquelure
inevitable to squalor, and inside the network
of fine lines—not one of the Madonna serpents
Italian-made for pleasure—but cracked
from earth’s darker plate, the Ouroboros
clothed in smoke. The future and the past
not yet ready to be lit.
Swiss Chard Charlie Vagabond
Against chemistry, against photography
the self-portrait in four divided frames
becomes an index labor of love. June,
perfumed by lilies, Junoesque—
gallivanting greens, wake up!
in the grass despite last night’s rain,
panegyrizing Man Ray’s talent
for negative halos and tresses.
What divided tincture lay
different than the beggar’s, my vagabond
elbows past the swiss chard rows.
To taunt, to tattle.
Ta-ta! The chafer flies off, dividing
tittles into smaller strokes, accidents.
The underneath whispering of peonies.
The whispering is Wordsworthian.
Trip-tincture— the slightest trace
of cottage dye—the dowager’s retreat
endowed by mineral curvature,
the dowsing hell bent on oil-finds
or the discreet decency of a rake,
his early morning milk bottle exit.
The cuckold’s hammock
wet from a recent rain.
Toil and moil, oils and phlox prints.
More than one hundred years ago,
painters painting in June.
The rough-duff painting
marrows the dog’s path—
Lucretius disaster atoms
pounding away— the rake crosses
to the garden’s gate, his black boots
laboring over the dayshot lilies.
The Cajoling Takes a Turn Around Cycloptic Rocks
Would you chive butter feed me?
Butter my chops
Chestnut horsey play
This is not real science, but
Butt crack, perfumed, hidden
By small, delicate, buttery hands
I’m wearing a white head scarf
Would you binding sheet
For the gallery parade?
Suck my cock, I’m sure
The cave knows lots
Roses, silky promenades
Only asking ricotta-tasting
panna cotta, smooth gelatin
Liquid life beaches too quickly
Would you chive butter feed me?
I wear a white head scarf
Would you binding sheet parade?
Tie me up to tie me down
The cave knows lots: roses, silky
promenades. Only asking (she lies down
on the pillow) since life beaches so quickly . . .
. . . into other seasons.
Polka-dots, your French-cut
suit, the finest silk
between your legs. (Puts the camera down.)
Italian wool, Belgian lace.
Never trust a man lying
in your bed. His arms tattooed.
Blue radishes wet with rain
newly pulled from the ground.
Epocrates, so it is written:
We rest in dark caves.
While the chafer
in and out of the white
an accordion vibrance
Ray: My only summer instrument.
Salveo, Every Man for Himself
Consumption, ulcer, snake bite, toothpaste
brain-senses, memory, 10 degrees Fahrenheit
You will be satisfied
that I don’t remember
what happened next
or what happens in that book
or television show
I don’t think we’re talking
about the same thing
Sorry, but I have amnesia sometimes
It comes and goes, I can’t remember
All of it
You won’t be satisfied with my list
You won’t be satisfied until I go
Into the first frost-nipped wired fence
where I saw her tying the vines
to her own dark brown hair
She wore it piled up
on her head, a pretty mess of braids
The Romans used to grind up sage
in their palms, it was like meditation
but better, that insistence of serenity
Someone switched off my fluorescent light
Not okay to not ask at least
since plant life requires
a thank you
Even neon knows better
The gallery’s hallway a messy dream gloom
The headlights a moon look
In testing, test member, test doctor
Did someone tell you removal was better
when testing discrete numbers
Seems funny we can laugh at layoffs
Unannounced unemployment plans
Taken sips at the
Find the matter
Run it by outside counsel
Dark grease stain up near my right eye
Yeah, that’s a scar of
everything that’s ever
happened to me
Pollux star is all I ever wanted
The crash and hiss of something real
Conviction in a sherry glass,
or resurrection of old traditions.
Spirit of compromise, it comes
and goes sherry-like, dry,
sweet, then dry again.
Intuition, a glass.
Intuition, the liquid itself.
Longing, a glass or a liquid.
Losing all of it, I’m optimistic.
Not finding it, I make my own.
Left in outside grass, the glass shone.
CATHERINE THEIS is a poet and playwright living in Chicago. Recent poems and plays have appeared in Another Chicago Magazine, Barrelhouse, CutBank, and 1913 a journal of forms. Her first book is called The Fraud of Good Sleep (Salt, 2011).