Friday, April 03, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project, Day 3: Doug Anderson

Today's poem comes courtesy of Doug Anderson:


Love won't behave. I've tried

all my life to keep it chained up.

Especially after I gave up pleading.

I don't mean the woman,

but the love itself. Truth is,

I don't know where it comes from,

why it comes, or where it goes.

It either leaves me feeling the knife

of my first breath

or hang-dog and sick

at someone else's unstoppable

and as the blues song says,

can't sit down, stand up, lay down pain.

Right now I want it.

I'm like a country who can't remember the last war.

Well, that's not strictly true.

It's just been too long.

Too long and my heart is like

a house for sale in a lot full of high weeds.

I want to go down to New Orleans

and find the Santeria woman

who will light a whole table full of candles

and moan things, place a cigar

and a shot of whiskey in front of Chango's picture

and kiss the blue dead Jesus on the wall.

I want something.

Used to be I'd get a bottle

and drink until the lights went out

but now I carry my pain around everywhere I go

because I'm afraid

I might put it down somewhere and lose it.

I've grown tender about my mileage.

My teeth are like stonehenge and my tongue

is like an old druid fallen in a ditch.

A soul is like a shrimper's net they never haul up

and it's full of everything:

A tire. A shark. An old harpoon.

A kid's plastic bucket.

An empty half-pint.

A broken guitar string.

A pair of ballerina's shoes with the ribbons tangled

in an anchor chain.

And the net gets heavier until the boat

starts to go down with it and you say,

God, what is going on.

In this condition I say love is a good thing.

I'm ready to capsize.

I can't even see the shoreline.

I haven't seen a seagull in three days.

I'm ready to drink salt water,

go overboard and start swimming.

Suffice it to say I want to get in the bathtub

with the Santeria woman and steam myself pure again.

The priest that blesses the water may be bored.

Hung over. He may not even bless it,

just tell people he did. It doesn't matter.

What the Santeria woman puts on it with her mind

makes it like a holy mirror.

You can float a shrimp boat on it.

The spark that jumps between her mind

and the priest's empty act

is what makes the whole thing light up

like an oilslick on fire against a sunset over Oaxaca.

So if I just step out into it.

If I just step off the high dive over a pool

that may or may not have water in it;

that act is enough

to connect the two poles of something

and make a long blue arc.

I don't have a clue about any of this.

Come on over here and love me.

I used to say that drunk.

Now I am stark raving sober

and I say, Come on over here and love me.

from the book Blues for Unemployed Secret Police, used with permission from the author.

Doug Anderson's forthcoming book is KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN, a memoir about growing up in the south, going to Vietnam, and getting lost in the sixties after, will be released by W. W. Norton on July 13. He is working on a novel about human trafficking. He has new poetry in the Massachusetts Review.

Read more of Doug's poetry here and here.

And, as part of BillyBlog's Tattooed Poet's Series, head on over to Tattoosday and check out Doug's amazing tattoo here.

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