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Bill Knott

(1940 - / Carson City, Michigan)

Excerpts From the Diary of Damocles


I don't dare speak too loudly,
some timbres could be fatal--

that string is not too strong
I think: and at times I have

to breathe. Or maybe I fear
my paraphrastic exhalations

will spoil the oiled perfection
of its sleekness, will mist

over that brightness whose
needle sharp point compasses

my every stray. I am as
edgy in my way as it--

as little-rippled, as subtle.

Prey to vapors, to sudden
icecap thaws, seismic

dicethrows, the world wires me,
I hex myself up to a pitch

of infinite finicky sensitiveness,
alert to every window opening

down in my castle's bowels,
every mousehole emergence.

A simple housefly--a moth
murders my rest when it

mistakes for light that glittering
blade in which every passing

glint is glassed--barometer
of my highest apprehension.

*

I know my fear is only a ploy,
a sticking point in the old

hairsplitting debate of the winds . . .
I the first split personality

divide into a Dam/an Ocles,
a mother and her myopic

son. Or, since everything
is reversed in its mirroring

shaft, a Selcomad, mad and sulky.

Language does this to me.
It inverts my position: King

I am, but await my crown,
unmanned until it come down;

my kingdom lies in twain
to each, I am in half to all.

*

If only I could reach up, up,
and take it in my teeth,

suckle that penile projection,
cloister its unremitting hardness

in the sheath of my throat--

swordswallower who exalts
his posture with this adjunct

second spine, aligning gut with
palate, my groin with my height.

*

Male means to be in the crime
of things here, this frail planet

killed wide, maimed down.
Male means murder, rape and war.

Its indomitable will will not allow
approach. All broach will fail.

It must fall on you or not at all.

*

Insane, isn't it? History hangs
impregnable to the mind, eager

to halve your brain with rift,
intrusion and strife, the warrior's

dissonance. No whole is hallowed,
no peace. Don't let the humor of

this scene (when the phallus
falls the fears recede) attend

you away from its cruelty.

*

I stand here exposed to whose
justice, my crime my Y

chromosome. That Y aims
his prick point down at me.

A dowsing wand that seeks
my artesian quench, my depths

of death. His insistence
sustains me in steel, his encased

incursion covers my melt,
my metal. Each day he rights me:

his richterscaled tremors are
my weather, my wherefore:

his gloss his gleam condemns
my fortunes, his ore loads my gold

with schist. His soliloquy
interrupts mine at every word.

Linebreaks enforced by sword,
his poem sunders my rhythm.

All mine at last is made him.
His blade remembers my name . . .

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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