Elton Glaser

Slow Fuse Around the Cranium


Another gutshot dawn, and the day

Wakes to a crow alarm clock.

Have the birds turned anti-American, little

Feathered terrorists in the heartland of sleep?


Inside the wreckage, I can’t tell if

The coffee cup’s half empty or half full,

But it’s all caffeine, wetting down

That thistle at the back of my throat.


Ah, sun, it’s a hard morning

For you, too, those low clouds black

As a pew of Presbyterian elders, set

To ruin your reputation for a hot time.


For weeks now, the air’s hung heavy

Over everything, the soap so soft

It’s like a palmful of ectoplasm: not even

A cold shower can make me come clean.


For weeks now, my mind’s felt both

Shifty and shiftless, brain waves no more than

Motion in love with itself, and less spry

Than old women with a leg up on ninety.


Maybe I should move from the Midwest

To the Mideast, some sandy place you know

Where you stand, like a lame camel,

Bad knees bent between God and atrocity.


But the heat’s already here, and the caterpillars

Have raised their tents in the summer trees.

Why stir the one-eye mullahs, when I can

Flay myself in the doldrums of my own home?


I’m at the age for adages and elegies:

What there’s no help for, let go. Not until

The fat’s in the fire will it sing for you.

Even the sheen of day darkens in the dark heart.


Like those spazzed-out insects on the patio,

I’ve spun myself to a dither, and who knows

When I’ll come sliding back, bone and soul,

To the absolute enormities of whatever life


The future might ring in, the rich bronze

Midnight tone of some Mongolian death gong,

Loud enough to stun the years and make me take it

All in good faith and down to the quick.