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Spleen


ISSUE:  Spring 1990
Oh, much maligned one, meager hunkerer
beneath the heart, they slander you
who claim that anger is your little engine,
that melancholy squats within you
like a frog in its rank grotto. My hands
feel anger, my fingers feel anger, but you
in your basement chamber, you doze to the steady
whoosh of my lungs, diminutive carwash
of the blood, extracting a few dead cells
like a monkey picking lice from its mate,
but nothing serious, nothing professional
like the liver—for you it is simply a hobby.
I knew a doctor once who had a bookcase full
of your brothers and sisters preserved in bottles
while their former hosts still strolled the streets.
I asked, Do those people persist
in feeling anger? Do they ever grow sad?
He thought I was crazy and drove me away.
But a friend with a missing spleen still
fights and rages in shoddy bars or stares out
at the moon racing behind clouds and weeps.

Little tousler of tired erythrocytes,
do they mean to say that without you
my love of life would flow unchecked,
a constant good humor untainted
by proof of falsehood, injustice or greed?
If true, then bankers would have made sure
centuries ago that each child’s spleen
would be plucked out at birth, and the courts
would have declared you a common criminal,
known for your tangle of mood changes
concerning unlimited buying and spending.
No, my pygmy pacifist, my anger is my own.
It is the sweetener I use to taste the world.
It trickles from my body like sweat.
How could my love be so great if that love
throbbed unqualified? Return to sleep,
oh superfluous one, and we’ll stand sentry
above your uselessness—I with my doubting,
my anger with its club, and melancholy
with its constant image of a double world:
the one, our burden, and the other, our dream.

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