Give up the dragons tattooed on your arms
in blue and red, your proud captions
in green, “Fight for yourself…. Make it
Right…. Stand for something or nothing.”
Give up waiting your turn, because no one
gets a turn unless he takes it. Give up
the constellations, which are always
here and always missing, the stars
televising their own deaths, the saturnine
stages, the coy curtains falling
on stubbled stems, desolate decapitations
while sylvan stogies smoke into eternity.
Give up Cassiopeia and the seven sisters,
your bouts with the moon, the wrestling matches
in the dust. Give up the dust for more dust,
the salt for whatever you’ve lost,
what you’ve already lost for what you’re going to lose.
Give up the hawk that roosts in the mirror,
the bobcat pouncing on its prey, the angels
nodding on their stalks, the blue space
between what you see and what you don’t.
Give up regret and your desire to do good,
because desire is nothing but absence—
oil spews from pipes in the ocean,
cash burns up pockets and countries.
Give up the fierce flies, the fey
spirit at the bottom of your glass. Give up
the old man rattling off his heroic deeds,
railing about deceit and vanity, he is deceit
and vanity. Give up salt, the herb garden,
the titmice on the take. Give up your brokers and bankers
to a tarry pitch, a swarm of hornets.
Give up your glittery garments,
the voyages in a jar, the genie offering you
three wishes. And give up your wishes.
The frogs signal you from the pond.
Crows wedge into your dreams. Prophecies
trail long tongues. Give up your calling,
which no one hears. Give up your radioactive seeds
for mushroom clouds, your hostages for other hostages,
your poor for your poor. Give up the tender
tedium of your days, rocks ricocheting off rocks,
the savory slaughter, the sanguine noose, the duck paradise—
your dying parrot bellicose as ever.
(Published in American Poetry Review and Solstice)