The Myth of Fear
for Mary Lou Brockett
What I really wanted to write about
was not fear- it was something more complex, more detailed,
like the beliefs of a country near India,
where they say the sub-conscious is a dragon coiled
along the spine; it generates your inspirations,
your desires. The countrymen tattoo
serpentine bodies over the skin, their backs:
they wear their desires openly.
When I was five I felt my dragon shift
every time I held a pencil, copied books into
Red Indian Chief notepads.
But this poem was not supposed
to be of me— but of a time when we talked about fear, while
the car radio blared Janis Joplin
and I was imagining Robert in Minneapolis, sleeping
with one hand empty on his side of the bed, the other
pulling a pillow under himself. You were telling
half-truths, afraid to reveal anything, just enough
to keep the conversations running along with the car.
You wrote in your last letter
on a subway a bum kicked me and I recalled
gods often disguised themselves
as beggars, like the homeless old men selling breadsticks
on the street meridians in St. Louis, or like the little
Indian boys washing tourists’ car windows at stop lights.
But see, I’m shifting again,
the same way deja vu blurs reality, keeping us awake,
reminding us the words we use have been said before.
So I guess what I am writing about is fear:
how the countrymen near India fear their tattoo desires
will never happen. How I fear you becoming consumed
by your past. Allowing the violence to shift against you again.
I can’t recall the name of the country. I can’t remember
if I told you that Robert cut his thumb that summer,
the scar now resembling a crescent moon. And I can’t
remember if I mentioned how I picture my dragon:
one claw empty, painted open. His other makes
the sign for water. A third tucks a violin against his belly,
the last raising the bow.
At night, the dragon mumbles, never sleeping. In the morning,
I wake to the tuning of his little violin.