Saturday, June 10, 2006

companion poem


Pay the man with the cardboard sign
who scares for a living. Not to surprise

your companions, as others do, standing
in a crescent behind him and watching

for the funny flinch. There are birds
diving all around, fish upending themselves

in the inlet. He rattles two cuts of eucalyptus
like a long-masked shaman, peeks around.

He is portable bush. Pay him to surprise
yourself. God bless and good luck

is not enough,
says another, doughnut cup
dusted with coins. Eye contact—your first

mistake. But you take the papers that are
thrust at you, flags, even if you do not

read them, even if you do not need new shoes,
sausage, a Scientology personality test,

or once, three times in one day, a psychic
reading from Ms. Angelica. At home,

don’t wash the pillow case; each eyelash
recorded a moon stage. At home,

be patient with the orchid. Two of your
undershirts—one to sleep in, one to hold—

are tucked under the sheets so that I may both
be in you and be with you. The man who

scares is sitting on a tomato can. A street
magician trips over his shoes. And on the island

prison, bright white rock in the knife light,
the tour guide says there is no evidence

the men who tunneled out with a spoon
survived the cold water, currents, sharks.

That means there is no evidence either
they did not.