THE SWEET AND BITTER FOOL
"titled le mat in the Tarot of Marseilles…the madman or the beggar…"
Cry you mercy, I took you for a joint-stool.
In need of Fool wisdom, I knew my sister
would be good for some Tarot lore; it's a family
gift, the sisters
are like the Flying Wallendas of occult arts.
The figure she describes might be blind
like me–the stick, the dog, the failure
to see that precipice he's walking toward–
blind man, madman, beggar-man, fool, he's
a one-man King Lear.
that's not a cane, it's a hobo luggage rack slung
over his shoulder. It's not his eyes that are
blind to danger.
I know this guy, I think.
Striding through life with the sun at his back,
knowing he'll always be blond, always look good in tights, knowing
–I'm on a roll now–someone will pay off those
"You sound like Bill O'Reilly, complaining
about entitled youth."
Now I see I
am the dude on the card, only two steps
farther on, over the edge
and suspended in space like Wile E. Coyote.
Dost thou know the difference, my boy, between a bitter fool and a sweet one?
It happens like that, I'll be strutting my conversational
stuff, debonair in my conversational tights,
sure everyone wants to hear what I want to say, then
Thwoosh! The void. Someone
is crying, or comparing me to my black-sheep brother.
I should take that stick off my shoulder and tap, maybe
I should listen to what that little dog
is trying to tell me.
Tell me, am I
that handsome carefree fellow, or
am I the abyss?
Can you make no use of nothing, Nuncle?
* * *
My hand warm on your warm shoulder
my cane mapping the gritty rock
we walk on sandstone hills.
Last night he spoke of carbing
the word strange, the pipe
too like a tiny flute.
Pinwheels and iridescent
the vestiges of sight.
You seemed far away
as the climber told you
of his discipline:
They had technical axes. You have to strike the exact same spot
four or five times or the ice will shatter…
I told myself: "Your face
is not made of wax, your face
will not fall off."
To make it real, he didn't want to be top-roped…
just hanging in mid-air…
Had time or blindness
turned the thrill
of release to vertigo?
… I do these exercises to strengthen the grip,
like this: one-two-three-four-five…
One of me walks with you
'in the sweet air
that celebrates the sun';
another me awoke
still in that skewed country
where a groping hand touches
only the void.