Cambridge Book Review

[Issue #6, Fall 2001]

Cheap Night Out

R. Virgil Ellis

Tight curve, worn tires.
The radio plays Bach -- longing uncoils
from my wine-warm gut --
a vibrating string waxed by the moon
that leaves a shimmering wake
on the nearby lake Koshkonong!
Hey but a utility pole snags
that humming line -- I'm slung back into my seat,
throttled down to a street
studded with creosoted pine.
It's all laid out for sleep.
Pacing the hardwood floor
I wanna reach for the Rolling Stones!
Yeah but considering who's asleep
I pick the Fifth Brandenburg.
The harpsichord steps
inside its cage of form.
Diminuendo, I'm at the door.
Bugs flit around the light.
Like a spider I climb that
tingling melodic thread
and press against the screen,
now an immense grid.
The swelling cadenza breaks --
I'm outside, allegro, to where
moths scatter dusty scales
against a light-bulb sun!
Wings flutter antennae flick
against membrane of glass
white-hot electron core!
ecstatic cabbage looper!
furious nymph underwing!
hickory tiger possessed!
A looper paces from square to square.
It throbs against the rule of the possible.
On the screen, Pink-edged Sphinxes dream,
Mayfly, Carpenter, Luna.
I'm swaying, yawning, turn to the stair,
white-veined dagger caught in my hair.

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