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The Imagination, Drunk with Prohibitions


Childhood is more embarrassing than child.
Girlhood is more embarrassing than boyhood.
Black is less funereal in patent,
wine more linguistic than water—
a wineglass is more secular than a minaret.
Both are welcomings for the onset of blessings,
       both are longings.

Which is more embarrassing, daughter or mother.
Religion is more embarrassing than faith.
Blessing is more embarrassing than religion
(you have to stand very still, a mother's hand on your head).
Watching someone have faith, close up,
is harder than watching them chop off a finger.

Horseback is more masculine than bareback.
Bareback implies a young girl, or a daughter.
Daughter is less enchanting than sun.
Morning is less interesting than waking:
morning is more birds, more pouring, more oval;
waking could be to an era, could be a crashing.

Womanhood is more embarrassing than manhood.
If the woman is old, breakfast is hopeless.
If breakfast is brioche, it becomes less frightening.
Insouciant is more French than nuance,
disappointment more French than matinee,
London more suave than Paris.

Welcome, ancien régime!
Electrified cities, cities of courtyard and iron!

Cities are always redeeming. But
private is steamier than public
if by private I mean a pine grove while the crowds
are busy admiring the tulips.
And if by public I mean beheadings
it is better than anyone reading about my girlhood.

Shame implies a covering of feathers, purposeful hiding
in shadow for a reason hard as iron.
Hurts wants an upgrade to pain
pain sings a continuum, a line we all hang our shirts on.
Hurts demands a benediction
(my head unbearably still beneath your hand).

If the woman is old, she has a courtyard full of lions.
In this way I make her less shameful.
If she is naked, I will clothe her with sculptural.
Sculptural marries body.
Marriage is less hobbyist than husband,
husband more dignified than buttons.

Naked is more enticing than prayer
unless you mean an old lady.
I meant to say a courtyard full of iron, all hard lines,
against which grandmother becomes pure texture.
Texture is less embarrassing than skin
the mottle of a tidal pool—tepid calcite backwash—

I meant to say courtyard full of sirens
and spinning lights. Enough with the old woman.  


Joy Katz

All You Do Is Perceive
Four Way Books


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