“The Poet as Setting” by Douglas Kearney

The Poet as Setting

The jolt that comes to bones inside a tumbled streetcar

is what the painter considers as she strokes her-
self into story. There is less to the jolt that

comes as he shuts his eyes before the monitor, save

what he imagines—a lightning bolt, a god tapping
the shoulder. He imagines the sky swelling

with ceiling fans or the guano of extinct birds,

a jolt riding from his shoulder
blades to his eyelids, dropping with roller

coaster clacks to his fingers. Here, he dreams of Frida

Kahlo. Here, he says, let me spread my flesh out like a
table linen, let my bones be silver that touches,

making, again, that clack. My skull will be a glass,

set properly, I have class enough. What jolt is
it to chew over class, his body set before him as

a reader sips (perhaps) a glass of something heady? We give

books spines, we break them. The table will have
its legs, its head. The body is upon us. Does the table have

a stomach? Is it simply there to bear our hunger

without its own, like a eunuch bathing a stripper?
What is the poet without eyes or ears—reading, listening? He is

a platform—a place to set, that to set it with. And if this is

all, what will he do when the reader finishes a glass,
rises from the poet’s head, and passes

into the city? Covered with a linen, he is waiting for

something to spill, perhaps a girl in Mexico rolling
her ankle in a street-



Douglas Kearney, 1974–

“The Poet as Setting” from Fear, Some
© 2006 Cynthia Huntington

Photo: Frida Kahlo painting La Mesa Herida (1941)

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