Joseph Cornell, With Box
By Michael Dumanis
World harbors much I’d like to fit inside
that the parameters preclude me from.
I’m the desire to have had a say.
I’m the desire to be left alone
amid brochures for Europe’s best hotels
behind a locked door on Utopia Parkway,
where Brother, crippled, rides his chariot,
where Mother’s all dressed up and going nowhere.
Together, sotto voce, we count hours,
fuss over newsprint, water down the wine.
When I was shorter, we were all divine.
When I was shorter, I was infinite
and felt less fear of being understood.
I am the fear of being understood.
I am the modest Joe who hems and haws
at blond cashiers ensconced in ticket booths.
Lacking the words to offer her the flowers
I’d spent a fortnight locating the words
to offer her, I threw the flowers at her.
As penance, I entrenched you, Doll, in wood.
Through your shaved bark and twigs, you stared at me.
Being a woman was out of the question.
Being a question caused women to wonder.
How unrestrained you must feel, Wind and Water.
You are the obligation, Box, to harbor
each disarray and ghost. I am the author,
the authored by. I am a plaything of.
Who makes who Spectacle. Who gives whom Order.
My father was a man who lived and died.
He would commute from Nyack to New York.
The woolen business had its ups and downs.
How unrestrained you’ve become, Cage and Coffin.
There is an order to each spectacle.
You are the obligation, Wind, to sunder
this relic of. Am reliquary for
the off-white light of January morning.
Have seen you, Fairies, in your apricot
and chestnut negligees invade the mirror,
tiptoe on marbles, vanish from the scene.
Am reliquary for what World has seen.
I’m the ballet of wingspan, the cracked mirror.
Canary’s coffin. Sunshine breaking through.