Dan Masterson

From the manuscript of his forthcoming book, That Which Is Seen, a book of ekphrastic poems —

based on Giuseppe Arcimboldo's "Summer"
Anybody can become angry, that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way, that is not within everybody's power, that is not easy. —Aristotle
He sits at a glaring light-tube,
Candling eggs in the A&P cellar.
Overhead, Tex drawls his way
Through another sale, tossing
Corn husks & carrot tops onto
The floor inside his circular
Produce counter where they mix
With the daily slosh of rotting
Grapes, bananas, lettuce, oranges,
Avocado, cauliflower, cucumber,
Squash, broccoli,& mango, & melon
& mushrooms, the trash cans plum
Empty as always. Soon, Tex will
Prop the trap door open & yell
His Bombs Away greeting to the
Candle Boy, & rake it all down
The stairs at quitting time, his
Necktie dangling just beneath
His toothless grin, his cackle
Fading away as he hangs his apron
Up for the day. But not this time,
For Candle Boy has propped a ladder
Behind the staircase, & waits as
The lid creaks wide open, & the
Basement sky is filled with garbage
& that familiar cackle, & then,
On cue, Tex's tie flops into view.
One two-handed yank & Tex goes
Airborne, headed south, tumbling
Like a month-old sack of potatoes,
In danger of breaking his neck &
Other things, but Candle Boy
Will never know, for he's long
Gone, already out the alley door,
In need of another after-school
Job, but that's some other day.

T H E   V I G I L   O F   J U D A S   I S C A R I O T
(on considering Salvador Dali's "Crucifixion or Corpus Hipercubicus")
The dogwood is ready.
Its braided hemp hangs
knotted in a noose
dilating for my soul.

The tremors of your face

unfold on the backs of
my shut eyes. Your sacred
suicide will cause my own

To be recorded forever
as the vile sacrament
of despair, the very solace
of this shattered viaticum.

I smell lantern oil hissing above the pledge
Of public torture, see the sack cover your head,
Hear fists carry you beyond fear into giddiness.
Sweat runs your blood as you stumble toward
Antonia. At the tower, bone-chip flagrums shred
Skin from your back & buttocks, looping to rip
Haphazard chunks from your chest. The crowd
Chants for more. Naked and nauseous, still tied
To the pillar, you shiver in silence. They allow
You to rest, measuring your strength. You awaken
In a halo of thorns being driven into your skull
With a broken branch. A glancing blow breaks
Your nose; others split your lips & brow & cheeks.

Wearing your own robes again, you balance the
Patibulum on your shoulder, as they push you
Toward Golgotha. The throngs become less
Raucous, waiting for spikes to free your tongue.
Your robes are peeled away: all healing wounds
Open for their final bleeding; gravel cakes your
Back as men of your father's trade stretch your
Arms full length. They pierce your left wrist,
Right, & two hammers begin to clatter above iron
In search of wood. Both thumbs dance against
Your palms: visual proof of severed nerves. You
Rise half-crucified, soldiers advancing for the lift.
In one deft movement, you are set atop the stipe &

Fixed fast. Your mouth opens, saliva flows, you no
Longer swallow, muscles tighten, fingers draw in,
Toes curl under, stomach cramps begin. The chest
Puffs, the face purples, the eyes roll. Time & again,
You stand against the spike, trying to fill your lungs
With God-forsaken air. The flies arrive to lay their
Eggs among your mutilations. Blood flows from
Your side & takes on water: the final stage of life, but
It is clear you will live on through the birth of flies
To witness exquisite atrocities performed in the holy
Name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit,
As it was in the beginning, is now & ever shall be.

Dan Masterson is the author of four collections of poetry: On Earth As It Is (The University of Illinois Press, 1978), Those Who Trespass (The University of Arkansas Press, 1985), World Without End (The University of Arkansas Press, 1991), and his New and Selected:  All Things, Seen and Unseen (The University of Arkansas Press, 1997).  These poems are from his forthcoming fifth book, That Which Is Seen.  He was elected to membership in Pen International in 1986.  He has received two Pushcart Prizes, the Bullis, Borestone, and Fels awards, and is an AWP Award Series honoree, as well as the founding editor of the Enskyment Poetry Anthology (www.enskyment.org).  The complete texts of his first two books are in the permanent collection of The Contemporary American Poetry Archives.  His work has also been anthologized in The Random House Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry; Holt Language Arts; Poets Against the War; Caught in the Net; and Perfect in Their Art.  His work has appeared in many journals, including Poetry, Hotel Amerika, Esquire, Shenandoah, The New Yorker, Esquire, Ploughshares, Poetry Northwest, Prairie Schooner, Artful Dodge, Ekphrasis, Poems Niederngasse, Chautauqua Literary Journal, London Magazine, and Innisfree, as well as The Ontario, Sewanee, Paris, Southern, Hudson, Yale, Gettysburg, Massachusetts, New Orleans, and Georgia Reviews.  Professor Masterson has directed the Poetry program at SUNY/Rockland for 44 years. In 2006, Syracuse University's Bird Library assumed stewardship of The Dan Masterson Papers for its Special Collections Research Center.  



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