Barbecue

—For William Dickey

I

They were spraying Pepsi and moth-juice
on the fire. The mosquitoes, lawn flies
and moths dove, flashed and were painlessly
consumed. There was applause
…we entered.
And while my wife was kissed, they clapped
me on the back. They wanted to know
that I was there. And then I kissed them
down their throats, choked and knew that they were there.

And after I had kissed those who had
kissed my wife, and after they kissed me,
we sprayed one another, scratched and dove
after the moths. We flashed, painlessly,
and emerged to munch the ashes, coals
to sip moth juice, lemon juice and gin.
And (again) we clapped one another
laughed, kissed, sipped, puffed and swallowed cigarettes.

II

The cat-girl would not believe in it
and crouched there pained, purring with the pups;
(their tails were remarkably alike
and neither pronounced upon events
with them.) From time to time they’d lick one
another, or the cream dip, but otherwise
were still
…though one of the pups had tried
the fire, and the cat-girl
sleekly swallowed gin.

III

Someone found Lil, the wife of no one,
buried beside the spit. She wanted
a martini; we obliged, and then
reburied her.

Bernie dove in after the moths
only to be buried, topped, beside the spit.

IV

The sky was rainbow strips of chrome, clouds
and the sun, the great, archetypal
Ford: pork-sauced and on the suburban
spit of heaven.
And Lil’s angel waved
free, fulfilled and married now, to chrome
…sipping gin and tonic.
We all stared,
climbed upon our spit, and then dove
in after the moths.
—The fire attained to Lil.

The fire was a Ford, without chrome, pure
as gin, as cream dip, moths or spray, death

and we sang to it: its attaining
to heaven, to Lil, to space, ourselves
and the archetypal Ford.

In the other distance, in the space
the consuming that is east, the night
beyond where the moths take form, beyond
what we flash for when we die,
we sense
the white-walled dawn, time and tomorrow’s
Ford.
There was Mars,
the suburban star of barbecue.

V

The party had somehow failed. The cards—
and there was Rummy, large as Lil, four’d
the evening star. It was time for gin
and time for light!
No one would admit
that he was there; we hid in front of
one another’s wife. The women hid
beside the flames, the way they flickered
through their eyes. I kept trying to put my tongue

into their cards, into their eyes, ears
throats, between their teeth; but theirs were there

between mine. I bit them. And they cried
with half their tongues
munching diamonds and spades.

And the bushes had begun the moon,
ending “gin,” martinis and marriage.

Suddenly the women screamed. The moon
burst through, revealing their husbands, the pup-girl

themselves. The bushes became the lawn;
the night, the earth; and the moths, the sun.

The men became their wives; and the wives
became the men, for the most part

re-marrying themselves. The men were asleep
beside their wives, smiling, spitted, still

illicit. —Morning. My wife and I
sipped gin. I was Bernie, and she the moths.
– from The Collected Poems, 1957-2004