• Vol. 04
  • Chapter 06
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In what is believed to be
Da Vinci's final painting,
a "disturbingly erotic" John the Baptist
points upward toward Heaven
with the index finger of his right hand.
He seems to emerge from the darkness around him,
and at the same time seems to be returning to it.
Perhaps more enigmatic than the Mona Lisa's,
his smile is more intense, his eyes are piercing—
unlike eyes that are missing from empty bone sockets,
much more like eyes that see into your heart's desire—
a desire you fear, and fear that he can control.

As sure as I'm sitting here,
trying to write a poem about things I can't understand—
as sure as you're born (at least I assume that's you,
curled up inside the uterus of that writhing tree),
I can't stop thinking about Young Goodman Brown:
Seems that everyone in town sold their souls
to the chiaroscuro, just to have a part
in the Great American Short Story.

Georgia O'Keefe's in my head—
or rather has replaced it on my meatless shoulders
with a deer's skull—oh, dear!
And John the Baptist points to the sky
in such a way that you can't really tell
if he points the way to salvation or damnation—
or even if both are the same thing.



Shall these bones live?
Get up and walk away,
maybe show up at your front door one Halloween
with a bagful of trick-or-treats?

And as for that tree in the background—
somebody is being born, or still born.
And the reindeer skull on the human skeleton—
isn't that almost Egyptian?
Couldn't you just follow it,
after John the Baptist's eyes had transfixed you
like the serpent in Schopenhauer's anecdote
transfixed the baby squirrel—
couldn't you just follow bony footsteps of that apparition,
into the Underworld or Afterlife or Divine Ground,
or Transcendental Unity of Apperception?