by Jen Karetnick
— After The Concert in the Egg by Hieronymus Bosch (a disputed attribution)
Never mind the snake
hanging like a stale piece
of licorice over a pinky of branch;
he’s not so seductive after all.
And though trees root here, and myths
teem like gods, this pessimistic
impasto is hardly a garden.
Never mind the choir of goliards
chanting from a common score
inside the cracked amphitheater
of an egg. They wear the foundations
of birds and buildings on their heads
as if brains are fertilized yolks,
sprouting the concrete. Never mind
the roasted chicken aloft
in the wicker, the grilled fish,
the hand reaching for it, the other
hand cutting away from the monk
the string attached to his tithed purse.
Never mind the cat contemplating
all this delicious theft. Some
appetites are better left unexplored.
Still, music can turn men into animals
and back again, it seems: The lute player
wears the head of a donkey
with no apparent discomfort
as he plucks and strums. A monkey
chews on a horn. Can he evolve?
Upright, inside the egg, a yokel
fingers a harp, another a penny whistle.
The conductor spears a baton
like a lightning rod, a spire
on a cathedral, a direct line
to strike-you-down morality.
Never mind him; no one else is.
Nor is anyone paying attention
to the tiny men of conscience
in the corner, busily working
overtime, forging nightmares.
And never mind the turtle.
No, really, never mind the turtle
as he makes his tortured way
across the panel. He is a lowly
whole note that has escaped
the sheet music, the staffs that prove
the artist died before these
lead-tin-yellows and madder lakes
tipped the hand-glued sable
of any brush. Never mind,
never mind. Take this alchemy
into your mouth like a vitamin
and hum it. On the palate,
the building blocks of creation
crumble into acrid aftertaste.
Jen Karetnick is the author of three full-length poetry collections, including The Treasures That Prevail (Whitepoint Press, September 2016), finalist for the 2017 Poetry Society of Virginia Book Prize, and four poetry chapbooks. The winner of the 2017 Hart Crane Memorial Poetry Contest, the 2016 Romeo Lemay Poetry Prize and the 2015 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Prize, she has had work appear recently in Amuse-Bouche/Lunch Ticket, Crab Orchard Review, Cutthroat, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Missouri Review, Negative Capability, One, Painted Bride Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Prime Number Magazine, Spillway, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Verse Daily and Waxwing. New work is forthcoming in Cigar City Poetry Journal, JAMA, New Millennium Writings, Salamander, Split Rock Review, and Whale Road Review. She is co-editor of the daily online literary journal, SWWIM Every Day (@SWWIMmiami). Jen received an MFA in poetry from University of California, Irvine, and an MFA in fiction from University of Miami. Find her on Twitter @Kavetchnik, Facebook @Kavetchnik and @JenKaretnick, and Instagram @JenKaretnick, or see jkaretnick.com.