is what my friend said
when she meant to say:
Genius, Jesus. Easy
slip. Genius rides a donkey
down a row of palms,
a self-crowned king
come to the city of reckoning.
grows up misunderstood,
outcast at school
and in his neighborhood.
He admires the way Genius
breaks the rules, unshakable
as a new temple. If only
he could master that
Genius swagger, sacred sneer
and divine gaze. Little
does he guess how Genius
frets, his mind on the face
of perfect love. What
must that feel like?
Genius thinks, riding
his ass of martyrdom.
The most gifted understood
that everything in this world informs;
the ways in which the accidental foretells
what the gut knows, the heart holds.
Some sat out under a strong wind
until they saw the world with doubled vision.
Some watched shadows, how they curled
and crept, or, in the heart of black woods
the dance of white stallions,
the fall of their manes, the mark of the hoof.
For the traditional, there were dreams, lines
in the palm, birth stars and meteors, moon.
These were the old ways of knowing
and they still worked, the way numbers
told stories, dice threw fate,
the way letters in a name
could rearrange into a word.
No deliberate spill
of salt, no wand. Whatever they saw
they believed, looking beyond, within,
for the divine. How that one laughed in the hay field
as the sun set. Beside the barn, how
the cock crowed, and mice, out of sight, slept.
?Jean Monahan, who taught part time in the Literature Section between 2002-05, has published three books of poetry: Hands, winner of the 1991 Anhinga Prize, Believe It or Not (Orchises Press, 1999) and most recently, Mauled Illusionist (Orchises Press, 2006), from which these poems are reprinted. This is her second appearance in the FNL.