Godfrey, Help Me RestMatthew Harrison
in hissing static reruns
up my hippocampus,
that flickering seahorse
submerged in dark
folds inside my skull, is a word
unbidden, insomnia tic
to my sense of ridiculous.
Cocker spaniel! A hidden gun
stills clocks in good time.
Coldcocks us. I’m sorry
I’m not German. Don’t know
much German. Soon fluent almost
in Google, though. Please
permit me to mumble toss
and turn a shtick for a bit,
be fasziniert by dud transmutes,
jubilations, t-i-o-n conditions,
tongue deaf, mist-under-bridge
utterings. Let me fumble percussive
jings I must pronounce in dodo
lip-synch. I want sleep. Nightmares
canoodle with my lips. Oh cuss me
with a well-brushed white fence
of tall packed consonants glimmering
saliva, a Do Not Enter sign implied,
stained with red wine and meat.
Honey, call me the fool filled with lines
typical of dads in bad sweaters.
God, you done gone and babbled me
right good. All this gobbledygook
is a hackneyed horse of different
equestrians. Gig the flanks, deliver
poems on greeting cards. Neigh!
I say, I need to scream fake German
in a cavalry of muttonchops. Major
General Godfrey Weitzel guided
sleep-deprived Union troops
above the Appomattox River
against Robert. E. Lee, spring, 1865,
and he won! The Major General
I mean. I’m speaking in Google. A game
for the Sandman. To sleep, Parcheesi
dreams, that is the rubadubdub.
Who knows if Major General Weitzel
cared a lick for glockenspiels?
He shacked up cozy in the sacked home
of Jefferson Finis Davis in Richmond
and had a son, Godfrey Weitzel, born
stillborn, and a girl dubbed Blanche
who paled to measles in the postbellum
before she could even speak or spell
her illness. My middle name is Bruce
thanks to dad. Bruce! I say, try it out.
Shout it like a football huddle breaking up.
Matthew the Bruce! No, that is far more
the Scottish sort. I have no Anglophilia
or phobia, no potent secret fetish
for metallophones, no forte for Civil War
trivia. How many passed away in mud
never knowing their parents’ parents’
vocabularies? American tongue ripped
from clots of immigrant fabric,
bleeding Africa. Like bosh. Riffraff.
The gumption. A banjo ain’t a glockenspiel
no more than my mouth a harmonica, so
what am I blowing on about? Dying sounds
joked into commonplaces much later
misunderstood and made to bleed
again. The glockenspiel bangs notes
on well-tuned ribs, music spilling
tick-tocks. If the music takes you home,
where? Cemetery. The German in my
English plot, grounded beneath a live
oak near the unmarked African family.
The oak is almost dead, half blackened
from a lightning strike that split the trunk
into a huge reed that whistles in storms
alone. Whoever our ancestors were, they
made instruments first from bones.
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