Speech is Designed to Persuade
Mary Jo Bang
Here we are, my dear, so near we could touch
if touch were what was wanted. A pleasant event
accruing. A view into leaves will move the mind
back slightly. Dunderheaded hindrances.
They kept us apart. Is this what you meant
to have happened? I have taken up bad habits
in your absence. I have taken the tablets
you left on the dresser. I have dressed myself
in feathers fit for flight. I am flight but did not melt
as some do when they try too hard to fly. A fraction
of four is only saying a small thing oddly.
Fine then, they said, let the tree be Knowledge. Let the leaf
be Nature. Let the dog take a name we give it - Pupper.
Let the string be knotted on its linear axis.
And now the sun comes up. The machinery hum
of a pheasant flutter. They were galled by the gift
of a clock, its inconsistent clatter. They looked over a book
of prints taken from frescoes, decorative specimens.
Smitten, relaxed, they took a shower, using only a cup
of water. Uppermost was bliss's peculiarity.
Six was a cipher, although didn't they eagerly agree
to let numbers mean nothing?
Eventually the text began to explain itself.
Written out, the code was easier to decipher.
They devised a strategy, frequent division,
occasional subtraction. One fragment kissed another.
A sexual innuendo of sorts. Distance was not kind.
They understood the adage that omissions can be cruel
so a system of substitution was concocted. A three was used
to connote a blank space. A blanket was thrown
over the bed but only because it was very, very cold.
It was all in an evening's amusement.
All a moment's distraction.
Now then, she said, come closer. He allowed her
so little. And she made do. That can be said in her favor.
She was his favorite. He said so.
She dragged her nails along the surface soundless.
No abominable chalkboard emanation. In the quiet,
a clock. A dog scratching resignedly at a door.
That night she dreamed she lived in a laundry
where everything came clean. She was all
she was going to mean. Let touch be a time-tested image.
Let speech be designed to persuade. Let fragments hold a space.
Let the bell for waking keep breaking in.