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David Wojahn

David Wojahn

David Wojahn's most recent collection, World Tree, was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 2011. His Interrogation Palace: New and Selected Poems 1982-2004, also from Pittsburgh, was a named finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University and in the M.F.A. in Writing Program of Vermont College of Fine Arts.


The Inca lets Pizarro stroke his tunic. A crude adventurer in armor, touching
    the Offspring Of The Sun Itself.
I said to him, Inca, of what is a robe as soft as this mayde? He explained
    it was frome the skins of vampyre bats
that flye at night in Puerto Viejo & Tumbez & which feede upon the natives.

     Sacred was the Inca's spittle:

women of noble families were employed to catch it in a cloth, lest the ground
    should not defile it. Later,
the Sun God is garroted, a Dominican priest thrusting a crucifix into his hand
    before the noose is tightened. Later,
an Andean mountainside is honeycombed with nitro to blow up & extract its gold.
    Later, an oil rig catches fire      

in the Gulf  outside Biloxi, killing eleven. Later, Phil Spector points a very large 
    pistol at Dee Dee Ramone & his guitar.
He is producing the album The End of the Century & seeks for eight hours
    to extract the opening chord
of "Rock and Roll High School." From the mummified head of a rival,
    the Inca commanded

a drinking goblet to be fashioned, the refreshment emerging from
    a spigot in the mouth.
In "Be My Baby," Spector's storied Wall of Sound is comprised of sleigh-bell,
    castanet, full orchestra & the Ronettes  
in beehive hairdos, who are less four mixed-race girls from East LA
    than noblewomen chosen

to retrieve the Sun God's spit. Take 135. To accessorize his tailored suits, Spector  
    kept a cache of pistols in the way
that other men keep ties. Bling & Rolex, a ruby-studded coke spoon
    swaying his pallid throat.
& in the suburbs this morning a trio of my neighbors armed with handguns
    stalk a rabid raccoon,

zigzagging dogwood & azaleas, the neighborhood children in tow, maintaining
    respectful distance. From a hedge
the creature darts out; the briefcase man my neighbor aims his pistol.
    A froth of blood, a second shot
against the head. Four states south there are plans to ignite five hundred miles
    of oil-bespattered water

Even the Inca's table scraps were holy relics & warehoused in camphorwood
    trunks. My neighbor pokes the bloated stomach
with a stick. I am coming to believe the Gnostics were right; insatiable &
    shameless is the Demiurge,
though ably do we serve Him. The cocked .44 increases not His grandeur,
    though a temple-psalm results in the form

of a minor song within the corpus of four pretend-brothers in leather jackets.
    Once more we sift the mountain's rubble,
extract the nuggets, golden fillings, the rooms overflowing with valises, shoes &
    hair. The face on the goblet will be hewn into a smile.
O Fearsome One, look upon us as we linger by the flowerbeds, making small talk
    as the joggers & the mothers
pushing strollers file by. On cable we will view the oil rising miles to a sky
    turned blue-black in the fashion of a bruise.
Factotums all, we rise at dawn to creep into the cave where our quarries slumber.  
    Razor-fanged, blind. The huge ears
tremble at our step, a dainty dish to set before the Firstborn Of The Sun.
    We club, we net, we shake them lifeless

in our woolen sacks, careful to leave the pelts undamaged.


Claudia Emerson
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Claudia Emerson