Lee Upton is the author of the The Tao of Humiliation: Stories; the essay collection Swallowing the Sea: On Writing & Ambition Boredom Purity & Secrecy; the novella The Guide to the Flying Island; and a fifth collection of poetry, Undid in the Land of Undone, among other books.
Ode on “Ode on a Grecian Urn”
foster children of Xanax,
around and around and around they go,
breathing for us, breathing
on their way out of town.
It’s never not spring.
It’s a festival where
nothing amounts to kissing.
No one drinks from anyone’s lips.
No one drinks.
Blood flecks a pillowcase,
and the pillow is turned over.
Then the head stays. Truth loves beauty
and beauty hides his face.
I’m Ashamed of My Cat
–waking up from a dream, in which these words were spoken
Although why should anyone be?
This creature whose kind have tightened
even the throats of philosophers
in their last sour hours,
this creature for whom
any winged thing can be pulled down,
even inside the house,
this sleeper of sleepers, (sixteen hours, more or less),
lying like a warm pontoon on a human chest,
staring soulfully into eyes, three blinks and then out for the night,
purring like a car park, this compacted tumbleweed,
this alarm clock for hunger.
And why so long crouched on the windowsill,
a Copernicus in furs,
looking this way and that,
enraged at the squirrels of distraction,
the dry leaf that infuriates with
its assault on the porch—
and then leaping down,
expecting to be praised?
Could evolution have lifted a being higher?
Awarded for sleep, for the ability to ignore
obedience, to maintain a small fort on the couch,
to vomit daintily and walk away from it,
to bathe without water,
to accept love and not think a thing about it.