Each hairbreadth of mine
Was lost in a density of hairbreadths,
Anonymous as cornstalks
In an Iowa cornfield.
Now each hairbreadth of mine
Is at least a thousand hairbreadths away
From its nearest hairbreadth neighbor…
Like rural farmhouses
That get farther and farther away
And the farms, as well, ripple away
Down narrower roads.
And soon we run out of farmhouses
And the land is as naked
As a vacant moonscape.
Asked Feinsod of Pester,
Two zoology Ph.Ds,
Hip-deep in a nighttime swamp,
Looking for Mary River Turtles,
Amidst the venomous, toothy beasts
In Nature’s inventory.
Shouted Pester…no reply.
Well, I hope he’s okay,
Said Feinsod with muted solicitude,
Or at least that his notebooks float…
I’d hate to lose his research, too.
All in all, I’d say
He was good company,
Wouldn’t you agree, Pester?
Oh, come on Pester,
Enough zoology humor.
But there was only a menacing ripple
In the quiet of the swamp.
Tobin Chains was living on borrowed time.
He had some time of his own…
As far as he could tell…
But didn’t want to use it up.
So he borrowed time.
But the time he borrowed was up
And his own time started running again.
He called Borrowed Time Merchants,
But they were out of good domestic borrowed time
And didn’t have a firm restocking date.
We have a bit of imported borrowed time,
But, frankly, it lacks quality.
Won’t it do in a pinch, asked Chains.
Maybe, but it usually has to be supplemented
By some of your time,
Since it lacks quality time and party time and quiet time…
See what I mean?
So, I’d wait for our best domestic borrowed time
To come back in,
If, of course,
You’ve got the time.
Some like meat well-charred,
And some, uncooked, tartare.
But tartare can’t be spiced enough
In marinade of piquant stuff
To cover up its basic flaw…
It’s eaten raw.
Dust is the bond between social classes…
The elegant monied and the masses.
It collects on everyone’s things indoors,
The priceless armoires of Louis Quatorze,
Or the simple goods of the bourgeoisie.
It piles up even at Sotheby’s.
Dust motes surely beget with lust,
Since everything is covered with dust.
The difference is that Louis Quatorze
Had dusters in all his corridors,
While our more modest, but dusty, shelves
Are dusted less often and by ourselves.
As frigid snow swirls all about me
And cold breath puffs from my mouth,
I sit here warming my hands and my feet,
Wondering why geese and not me
Father Bunshaft swung the censer,
Burning incense, down the aisle,
But stepped on the hem of his robe
That he suddenly realized wasn’t his,
But Father Mulcahy’s.
Ten inches taller than he, himself.
So careful as a bride
He cast down his eyes to avoid the hem,
But veered to close to the right side pews
And, heedless, swinging too far right,
The censer grazed Mrs. Graybill’s cheek.
And reflexively, he yanked it left,
Gashing Mr. Snowdon on the sniffer.
But not to worry
The censer, white hot,
Cut and cauterized all at once.
Had Mr. Snowdon not fainted, though,
And the widow Graybill not tended to him,
They might never have met…and married…
Once the bandages finally came off.
Joey Spatula, a chef of egg salad simplicity,
Didn’t know a tamale from crème brulee,
But nonetheless wished for Michelin renown.
So he hung in the window of his luncheonette
A Michelin tire…
Like roasted window ducks in Chinatown…
And placed a Michelin sign beside it.
But guilt became the mother of mutation,
When he discovered Escoffier online
And replaced his baseball cap
With the souffle puff of a chef’s hat
And learned to make
Tripe and trout and goose pate,
Coq au vin and cassoulet,
Then changed Joey’s Luncheonette
To the Ivory Spatula,
Took the tire from the window
And waited to be discovered.
Just one sec,
Indicating imminent readiness to leave.
But really she means,
A geologic sec,
A serious chunk of time,
Hardly a casual eye blink of impatient time,
Not a couple of wasted, earth seconds of time.
No, she’s aligned with the Creator’s time…
The Pleistocene Age…blink,
The Age of the Dinosaurs…blink…
The Ice Age…blink.
And so imminent turns to slow-burn time.
Let me get a bottle of water,
I have to refresh my lipstick…
I have to change my blouse…
I’ll just be a sec.
Little hard seeds in raspberry jam
Get stuck between canines and cuspids,
Tight as grout,
While bits of spinach,
Adhere with stealth
To an incisor,
And smiling seems to anyone near,
Like the gap of a missing tooth.
Not to render you so self-conscious
That you smile only into your hand,
Or race to a mirror after a meal,
To check on your presentability,
But avoiding chagrin,
You could eat mashed potatoes
And white chicken curry…
And not have to worry.