mary jo bang


Under the Influence of Ideals

The extra fine ingredients sift down on you
or stir at your feet and cover your shoes
with the dust of it. The back of your hands,
dusted. Some fine glass particles stick.
The long bath only removes the thin layer
that can be removed. Everything else
is taken in and kept. You stand up
when you can to the curled lip,
some dogface raking back the curtain
to expose the starving. Who isn’t on edge?
Always the look that says don’t. And then,
the strategic repetition of the threat.
Death in the performance foreground,
some long-past allegory in back.
“Zero” plays on low while you look back
over your shoulder in a three-way mirror;
look up—there’s the glass chandelier
that substitutes for a people on the edge
of their seats. The natural birthright
position. Every last scene lasts for no more
than a second; some ceramic panther
stands in for the extinct. Is it today yet?
On stage, in a moment of everyday realism,
an accordion folds and unfolds while
we pretend we forget we said we ’d be kind.