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Published: Tue Oct 15 2013
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.
Art and Grandchild

Voids and painted areas interlock, same is true
of Mimbres pots, of riddles, of your kilned songs.

Placed over faces of the dead, the ancient clay bowls
were punctured at bottom, kill hole for escape of spirit.

To that other land…what can be taken? Old Devil Rilke
with Duino question. The hardness of life. A few words.

We don’t know which words rode with you into the void
of January water slapping against the Washington Avenue Bridge.

Not Rilke’s bridge fountain gate I bet,
possibly your own crackled jug fruit tree window

Do I do anything ever but remember? Were you still eulogizing
as you leapt toward the river, fatally correcting your father’s error?

Mudpuppy of Minneapolis, you’d muddled those waters before,
supplying yourself with needs, needs & ceremonies.

Never entirely clear, difference between obstacle intoxication
boredom brutality fear kindness inspiration agony success.

Today baby I love raptly opens and empties sock drawer
so many so many times in a row I am emptied of patience

endurance, anything like right mind. Little boy, newly statuesque
on fat feet, hands in command, bends down acutely

with each pull, cocking perfect round head sideways to verify
rough pine underside of drawer palely accompanying

upper darkness loaded with sky-map of folded socks.
Baby’s head redolent of oatmeal, lettuce, whatever feeding on.

When drawer opened most far possible, socks flung to floor
like superfluous planets by boy-god with pleasure-dome eyes.

Socks the colors of farm animals. Softly they land. Quiet.
Boy’s touch delicate even when tossing. Not pawing, not laying hold

but with workaday awe making contact all available existence.
Every untellable thing then crawled to, collected in warm fist,

released back into natural habitat with little gasp
like unhooked fish. At once sock-pasha’s world-making resumes:

closure of drawer, brief impression of forehead against pine,
emptying ceremony recommenced. Ten times, eleven,

but who’s counting? I watch, then I’m not watching.
I have become the minute hand, not advancing.

What is correct term for claustrophobia brought on by space travel
with ravenous curious grandchild of not-yet-one year?

Spirit collects in arrowhead of stainless minute hand
as final bubble of breath exits kill hole.

Journey terminal. Parents of tireless buck-eyed beloved
will return from noble work to recover body when?

Perhaps you remember, Berryman, in the Mimbres pot the hunter’s
splayed quiver and the hovering bear, one black arrow through chest.

The bear’s teeth pop out of its mouth like chiclets,
it so shocked to be struck from this wee distance.

See what's inside AGNI 78

Erica Funkhouser is the author of five books of poems, most recently Earthly (Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt, 2008). She teaches the Advanced Poetry Writing Workshop at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and lives in Essex, Massachusetts. (updated 10/2014)

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