Customs Declaration

As usual, it’s two years on the balcony of the Garden’s
Restaurant since we’d last met there. Beyond the wisteria
the hysteria of fruit bats gorging on the metallic racket
of themselves. Luckily, all the white china composes me
for his entrance. It’s terrifying when a virus makes an appearance
with a face, but there he is, the assassin of nonchalance,
the bull-fighter of my adolescence, sure
as a surgical hummingbird. (I’d be steely, too,
if America had only just decided to admit me!)
But you know how a pin-prick on the foot can doctor
itself as a twinge in your back? Well, as soon
as I kissed his cheeks from right to left—as though reading
him the wrong way—his bronze statue of Pan
began sounding its gong through my organs.
Suddenly I’m crushed again by the phrase ‘flat
black fold’ that I’d found in one of my ex-’s
poems a decade ago. Sadly, abstraction
is rarely opposed to sensation; now parakeets were fighting
lorikeets in the fig leaves of my mouth. I tuck in to explain
(spattered already with gravy) my work on car-
bombs and female martyrs—a choking sense of tarmac
shimmering with the heat of all I have to say.
It buckles, I feel it, in his eyes, burning to a haze.
Then he lays out an immaculate theory of gossip
and it’s only after he lulls me into bitching of mother
that I flesh back into myself—just in time
for a just dessert. Yes; what lingers most
is the cling-filmed doggy-bag of regret
I brought home to my wife, lying exhausted in the shabby
star of our dark hotel.
                                                          As usual,
we decide the next day to walk it off
in the Blue Mountains. The mist is so dense
at the upper lookouts, all I can see are flash-
backs to the letters I’d failed to write her. It’s the sheer
sudden cliff-face I fall for in her every
time; the face that drives me on, drives
me crazy, and often kills me! This was one
of those days. In the chasm of silence that opened between
us, raucous fantasies of leaden flight and steely
terminations flocked among the gums and pubic ferns.
I’d lost us, yet again, and the track was rolling
up into a drama-queeny bower. Some palms
had thrown down brown gloves at drunken
eucalypts wearing their own bark as schizzy
webs of bunting. I look to her, but her scent
throws me off. I listen to the unidentified
birds, busy making a scene, busy
making a note of the scene, the same note,
the same scene, over and over, swelling
serially until it breaks up like surf all over
my skin. Those huge fingerprints of air must
have been spiderwebs—something, at least, had bitten
and left me with great longing. . .
                                                          As usual,
I felt utterly bereft on the train home of all
that had occurred to me. Staring still as a humming-
bird at a hundred miles an hour, I’m absorbed
in the graffiti tags scratched into the window, scribbling
over my view of the scrubby land and its complexes.
Maybe eggs inside me? My inkling of the bower now
was the fire in my forked limbs, detained indefinitely,
waiting expectantly, pressed home as the scythe-
shaped leaf between leaves of my book, The Audacity
of Hope
. I cried through Jesse Jackson’s tears.
I see Lethe in the conflagration behind inauguration.
Through martial arts I’m evolving new shoots
of myself. I want so to unite my various
states. That’s right; I’m coming clean to the home
I’ve never visited, America! So scan my retina
and take my finger for your index. I’ve never intentionally
done anything wrong. I’ve never been prosecuted. I don’t
deny the holocaust. I’m free of duty. Sure,
I’m terrified that I make nothing happen, nothing but terror
inside me. But other than that (as I hope I’ve shown
with my demonstrations) I’ve nothing to declare—nothing
but the booze, my medicine, and my genus.