To tell you the truth I’d have thought it had gone out of
use long ago; there is something so 19th Century about it,
with its absurd reverse Puritanism.
Can withdrawal from reality or interpersonal inhibition be
gauged by uneasiness at being summoned to a small closed room
to discuss ambiguously sexual pictures with a total stranger?
Alone in the presence of the grave examiner, it soon becomes
clear that, short of strangling yourself, you’re going to have
to find a way of suppressing the snickers of an eight-year-old
sex fiend, and feign curiosity about the process to mask your
indignation at being placed in this ridiculous situation.
Sure, you see lots of pretty butterflies with the faces of
ancient Egyptian queens, and so forth—you see other things,
Flying stingray vaginas all over the place, along with a few
of their male counterparts transparently camouflaged as who
knows what pillars and swords out of the old brain’s unconscious.
You keep finding yourself thinking, “God damn it, don’t tell me
that isn’t a pussy!”
But after long silence come out with, “Oh, this must be Christ
trying to prevent a large crowd from stoning a woman to death.”
The trick is to keep a straight face, which is hard. After all,
you’re supposed to be crazy (and are probably proving it).
Maybe a nudge and a chuckle or two wouldn’t hurt your case. Yes,
it’s some little card game you’ve gotten yourself into this
time, when your only chance is to lose. Fold,
and they have got you by the balls—
just like the ones you neglected to identify.
Franz Wright (1953–2015) was the son of poet James Wright. He was the author of many books of poetry, including Walking to Martha’s Vineyard (Knopf, 2003), for which he won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize.