From the Archive: Fan Wu (CAROUSEL 39)

Staff/ June 19, 2021/ Poem


from Songs Heard on The River Styx

Charon Before Breakfast

Charon moves along his sloop, fern-heavy with morning sleep.
He rubs his eyes then his wrists together.
Standing sexless, two words — pistil, stamen — flash across his mind, illustrated like in the Grade 9 Biology textbook he once read for proof of nature’s perfect design, lovewise.
An anchor tethers him to the limitless sea.
Anther and pollen.
Something Lacan once said occurs to him:
“Love is giving something you don’t have to someone who doesn’t want it.”
Wonders if two negatives ever cancel each other out.
Very deep. Very moving. Pretty hard to take.
He drifts off. Easier to be any species of flower, for whom love is simply given,
with the wind.

Charon with The Body Politic

Charon sits stoop-low,
his tucked mane facing the hungered masses.
Parchment irises. A ripple of lips:
cavernous murmur of a sigh
tuned to pebbles tumbling from glass.

Woe-voiced, the wrack of souls elided by time calls out to him.

Clarify the wisping light, Charon!
Charon, carry us to the Eastward beach!
Charon, lend a hand, show us those golden fields!

Sometimes he hears, in the swaying
beck-and-call, a woman’s name: Sharon or Karen.
He feels his hands grow steely with cigarette smoke
and stockinged legs that meet hard earth.
Vapour moans below his torso.

Charon Wounded by Insecurity

Charon draws his oar over another nuisance day.

No good these days that begin with a question.
Worse when the question is “do they love me for who I truly am or do they love me only
for what I do.”

The distinction fades, like that between soul and swamp.
Pallid grimace dusks over his face.
His halfbetween body quakes loosing rivulets of fleas.

Charon remembers how Dante saw him.
The shaggy cheeks of him
the boatman o’er the livid lake, around whose eyes glared wheeling flames.
Demonaiac form, irises of burning coal.

All this talk of fire. Well, he was young then. Prone to a rage fit now and again.
But he’s cooling off now. In old age he seeks a retirement altar. Someone to substitute this threadbare moss thing called a life.

Charon remembers Beatrice’s obol, and how he ground the good metal down to make crowns for his teeth.
The memory of fondness, and the woman’s diligent wonder, lifts his spirit a pinky’s length.
Dante might be proud.

Fan Wu makes a life for himself through community organizing, poetry and transient intimacy. He is the author of the exaltation-chapbook Thom Gill’s Now & Neverending (Blank Cheque Press, 2017). He is the editor of What Queer Reading, the LGBQT poetry chapbook imprint of knife|fork|book. More: + Twitter @fandangowu

from Songs heard on The River Styx
appear in CAROUSEL 39 (2017) — buy it here

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