Selected Poems II


Jeffrey Cyphers Wright


It was Dick Cheney with a shotgun in a covey run 
on a ranch in south Texas.
It was Mr. E. with an icepick in the poem “The Skaters”
by John Ashbery.
It was the persifleurs with their antagonizing flattery.
It was your moms in an Empire dress
of amethyst velvet layered with chiffon.

It was time to get a clue thought the investigator, 
shaking off a pervasive and corrosive coil
of moral turpitude that choked the atmosphere.

Word has it, it was none other than Colonel Mustard, 
caught equivocating at the intersection 
of what adolescent culture is portrayed as by adults, 
and the face-to-face encounters by young people 
that actually creates that awareness —
with a rusty spoon at the racetrack in Rangoon
where it should be noted with some regret
he was mowed down in the parking lot
by an irate driver in a little red Corvette.

Even now, at this late hour,
I love parrots in the springtime.

And let me assure everyone here, the captain 
of the submersible has set out to do the impossible. 

The mustachioed investigator, who we’ve met before,
the fusion of a silhouette and a puzzle, tough 
and resolutely cool and appearing to be disintegrating,
wearing a deconstructed trench coat 
made from strips of mink and black leather 
by Christian Dior, will make sure of it, 
as he watches West Virginia against Cincinnati. 
Mountaineers down by three points to the Bearcats…

And he’ll tell you, some swear to this day, 
it was the inchoate reprobate
lately from Kuwait,
in a pale mud gray jacket of molded wool 
sliced with curving channels of lamé and organza, 
with gathered edges,
that closes at the side, and cropped pants by Rick Owens, 
singing Le Marseilles, standing on her head 
with a top spinning on her right foot
and a saber balanced on her left.

Others insist, as if it were a pagan paean to honor,
it was the colonial ethnographer who was attempting
to understand how we make manageable our 
natural fears through rituals in which the group 
indemnifies the individual.  With a stiletto
behind a curtain in the first class section,
the baker’s wife (in a frosting-white cloqué dress 
drinking a screwdriver in the observatory) will add.

It was like an old joke about
a Boy Scout who was afraid to step on a crack.
It was in all the papers.
He fucked a pig and it squealed on him.

Or just maybe, could’ve been
the snazzy paparazzi in a golden dress by Reiss
with spaghetti straps and a pieced bodice
wearing DKNY’s Be Delicious fragrance,
eating pizza with pepperoni and peppers
on the dark side of the piazza we call dire predicament.

And don’t forget the drummer from The Derailers.
They were playing that night at the Knitting Factory.

Still it’s true, we would all like to believe
it was a wild cat in a top hat with a gold-headed cane 
in the back of a closed theater over on Duquesne.

Nor ne’er forget Katrina with a mop in the wee hours
wearing a white brocade jacket and flaring skirt 
with platform shoes and a helmet cap in the basement 
of our collective subconscious as a nation.