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10-22-2015

David J. Daniels 

 

Public Indecency

Relieved, to be frank, it was you, not me
caught on the nightly news, forced to one knee
in a parking lot, your unacknowledged
kinks now fully on display. Though they smudged
your face out, kindly enough, with pixels.
Fingerprints, then off to one of their jail cells
for the night. Your wife bailed you out. The town
hushed, then whispered, whereas I, who was one

 

among your innermost circle, dropped off
a casserole. After our shock wore off,
dimmed to concern, then to faint understanding,
we, your inner circle, who were learning
about you things we hadn't known, started
in with small jokes, puns mostly, that smarted,
you said, but also healed: our usual
mode of endearment, to stay casual

 

lest the terror of it sting. We prodded
for details, times of day, how you'd plotted
it out sometimes in advance, then fought
against it; other times, with no forethought,
surprising yourself in the act, often
whipping it out for yourself, with no one
about, to reclaim what part of the beast
was in you, what little part. Thus released,

 

sure no one had seen you, you'd saunter home
through suburban dark, back the way you'd come,
glad, sure, to some degree, but all the more
deeply hurt, in the long run, the longer
you reflected on it. What was the wild
you were looking for, that your wife and child,
waiting at the table, seemed unable
to give you? Not that you were unstable

 

exactly; at least, I didn't think so,
and I say that, of course, as someone who
has extracted brief pleasure from strangers,
and sometimes, too, in a park, the dangers

 

outweighed by expectation, or meager
shot at joy. Joy? Really, now? I'm not sure
that's the proper word. I've circled the park's
perimeter at night, studied the dark's

 

inhabitants, circling round the public
monuments, the park a sort of republic
for the homeless, mostly, with one or two
strays come in from the neighborhood: men who,
venturing out, feign a sudden interest
in jogging, perhaps, with an almost
imperceptible itch, or remotest
tug in the nylon crotch folds of their sweats,

and head out, yes, I think, for joy, and one
or two have joined me in the brush, hidden
behind the gold façade of a stoic
monument, some dead, now deemed heroic,
whose smile, held firm, went suddenly grim
the more the sculptor repositioned him.



The Casserole: a postscript

The casserole was an afterthought, but not crude,

 

of veal soaked in vinegar & honey, then boiled, as my mother taught, & I'd brought it along

not for him

 

but as a gift for her, whom I didn't know well

 

but had come to accept as a private, sadly frumpy, dignified woman, upon whom the awful had happened.

 

Like my mother, I pulled the meat by hand, still steaming on the bone, & tossed this into a skillet of sweated shallots, ginger, & cream,

 

then wine, of an ordinary grape, all the while thinking how soon

 

our attentions would need

 

to turn from her, & from what we thought we understood
of what she was grappling with,

 

& she took the casserole from me, standing at the door that first night of her husband's 
release from jail, standing on floorboards I'd helped lay

 

in the earliest days of their marriage,

& the casserole, finished & studded throughout
 

with leek & shaved water chestnuts, bore

 

a sudden intimacy, restrained yet capacious enough to say

 

I care, right now, in the immediacy, but my troubles, you see,

 

are elsewhere. "He's drunk," she said, "near the fire pit,"
& she ushered me through a side door into the yard

 

where others, our inner circle, had already gathered around him. His voice, as he confessed everything, shifted

 

from shame to moments of weirdly

 

jocular bravado,

 

& I felt, sitting down to join them, what my mother had often told me
about the casserole's vacant weight.


The Nail

Whereas darkness surrounds us; or other bodies, if we're fortunate; or one body in particular, if we conceal our neediness; whereas these things, as well as skyscrapers, clouds, and broken windows surround us, the nail

 

goes in, drives in, enters. The nail doesn't confuse itself with the newel, which helps us ascend to the second floor; nor with the Nile, an example of something flowing, like narrative or a suitcase or a staircase ending elsewhere. A staircase erected without nails (one in particular comes to mind, in a monastery outside Santa Fe), we refer to as

 

a miracle. Which is to say, it isn't the nail but the absence of nail which impresses us with the diving. I mean the divine. Similar absences, gaps in the story, wherever his body had gone to when they rolled the stone away. If the ending weren't accompanied by a knell, bees rushing from an olive grove, the trees disappearing in fog in the darkening knoll; if that music

weren't so seductive, making us stray from the body farther; if we hadn't glanced away, we might have seen

 

the nails getting plucked out, the holes widening, starting to flow. Meander. We might have seen his bare arms jutting out from foliage, solidly as nails. We might have noticed his one finger curled, as we tried to run. Might have seen him emerge from the shade, the awful shade we dreamed of as kids.

                             

    -from Clean

BIO: David J. Daniels is the author of two chapbooks, Breakfast in the Suburbs and Indecency, both from Seven Kitchens Press, and the full-length collection Clean, winner of the Four Way Books Intro Prize. A former Stadler Poetry Fellow at Bucknell, he is currently Poetry Editor of Pebble Lake Review and teaches at the University of Denver. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Best of the Net 2012, Kenyon Review, Pleiades, and elsewhere.