Poem by Craig Finlay
It is actually an exotic, bottled
spice, traditionally small-batch brewed
and local. The blends are usually region-specific,
handed down generationally.
Even now, they are delivered by caravan
on ancient wagon wheel ruts worn into rock.
It is a glint of teeth and distillation
of bone-fed dog sweat, boiled until a single
drop is left to fall from a copper coil into an heirloom
It takes weeks to make an ounce.
You can see why it’s so expensive, why men
will kill for it: desire knows it is better
to be the harbor than the sea.
When a baby boy slides free and silent
into the midwife’s hands, grab a generous
handful of masculine rub and work it
into that soft, wet flesh. The coarser the grain,
the bigger the man. That’s just science.
Never assume the mechanic is not a poet;
my cousins in Louisiana are the mirror
universe version of me, with vaginas
instead of goatees. How tragic —
when a thin, sweet girl named Maria
surrendered herself beneath my heaving,
drunken breath. The tragedy being I
can’t make it read like the biography of a writer.
That my affairs are really just about sex.
Prior to the industrial revolution the manufacture
of men was monopolized by a guild system
of skilled craftsmen. A man cost the equivalent
of a year’s wages for an average farmer or day
laborer, meaning a shiny new man was unavailable
to anyone but nobility (who liked to have Dissection Parties)
where they would unwrap and open up a brand new man
and learned scholars would guess what the various
organs and gears were for.
Now, with all we know about the intelligence of crows,
you can grow your very own man. Every seed comes
from the gut of a dead grandfather. My grandfather
made me nap with him. He never told anyone
what we did there. I never told anyone that when I
watched him die, a single long-beaked black raven
entered the room. A messenger’s raven. It plunged
its beak into the soft, papery skin of his belly and pulled
out a shiny black seed. It had the give of a ripe avocado
and every bit of the size. I have since planted my son.
If you never had a grandfather, you only need to pick
through the liver of a winter bear on the anniversary
of losing your virginity.
Chances are you may find the seed there.
Massage the seed’s flesh and hold it and whisper
your own poems into your cupped hands plant it
a dozen times, in a dozen places.
Each where enough men died to warrant a driving
tour of the historical markers placed 50 years
later. Each time, bury it for only a few minutes,
dig it back up and say, “Stay where you are,
use what you have, do what you can,” and
before planting it for the last time, say:
“I’ll be right back.”