Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Come, cordial and not poison.

I stand transfixed in an apothecary’s shop
Slick bottles of all colors,
Clear green, deep blue, frosted pink
Porcelain jars patterned with Delft
Tarnished copper pots and their lids, lined up meticulously
From smallest on.
Tiny thimbles glittering in a row,
So little substance in their hold
That any good they did would be over in a week,
Or even in an hour.
One hour of sweet taste, of bright cheeks and ready smiles,
And the next, illness restored.
Back again to slow shuddering and languor.

Peering through the glass, hands cupped around eyes,
I notice labels.
Each the same size,
Written in the same careful cursive, dated, numbered
And yet-
All named alike, stamped with the same arbitrary name,
Which must, at this point, seem a panacea.

In a rush, I choose the first bottle, and
Dropping a handful of brass at the counter,
Break from the shop.
Laughing in the streets, I swallow the bottle
(silver and bright)
the taste of mint slidingdownmythroat
I am brightness, sweetness, inside and out
I am feeling I am noise I am joy

And in a minute I am myself again
Unmoved, unmoving, gray, cold
The bell rings as I walk through the apothecary door
And complaint reaches my tongue
When the apothecary, glasses bright, holds out another bottle
Labeled the same, it is red and lacquered, and,
On looking inside, the substance is different
Ignoring the label, I swallow it, brilliant summer on my tongue until it ends
And I am gray again.
“This,” says he, and I taste butterscotch and nuts,
Labeled, the same, ending, the same.
And “this,” and the squinting flavor of sugared lime
“This,” and “this,” and nutmeg, and ginger,
And I taste and smile and frown and gray,
Tasting each time something new,
Waiting for the taste of something dreamed.

And the sun falls low.

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