Sumerian Votive Figurines

 
were meant to pray, unceasingly, on their owners' behalfs.
He thinks: they still might, even though the proper recipient
gods have long since gone to theology mulch; this faith is
stone and for the most part unbroken. Choired-up
this way–there's an even dozen he's studying–something
hushed and intercessionary does texture the air in a circle
around their geometricized devotional posture. Some were done
300 years apart, and yet a gentle uniformity attends these
stand-in men and women; he thinks of his own
world's fashions of 300 years ago, then shakes his head, because
what kind of halfass world-class Sumerologist is he, dizzy
at the edge of cracked conjecture when he should be adding up facts?
In any case, it's lunchtime: baloney-and-curry on white with
chocolate cream-filled Ooh-Oohs for dessert, and the mail is letters
from both of his kids. He shakes his head again, he needs to: Lou, poor
Lou, was nabbed two years ago by the FBI for harboring a stolen
circus elephant (the poop of which contained ten bags
of paradise-quality coke, though Lou persuasively argued ignorance), then
Becky (spouses always sensing the moment of thinnest defense
in one another) left on the day of his trial, left with someone
who styled himself (or so the script across the leather jacked blared)
The King of Venusian Blues, whatever that was (or wherever). Melanie,
meanwhile, couldn't be more jet-propelled successful: every week,
it seems, her company ("The Company," she says, like "Truth" or "Eternity")
eats some smaller companyette, and while she once was Lord Almighty
of its Alabama Xerox network, now she oversees
the "coastal-corridor/Europe conglomerate" for an empire of
"communications outreach" where, so far as he can tell from what
she patiently details, you can press a button in D.C. and, whoosh,
two blueprints, a bundle of money the size of a basketball, and, if
you want, a troupe of lubriciously spangled naiads tumbles
from a cloud of hi-tech pixie dust into a boardroom in Rome.
There are photos, from each, of the grandkids: Sonny
sporting a T-shirt tricked up with an airbrushed skull on fire
vomiting various barnyard animals; and Darlene
in a ballerina's tutu making her porky four-year-old's body
look, he'd swear, as if it just passed a very diaphanous fart.
It could make a man–what? guffaw? weep? or
see it's 5 p.m. by now and shake his head, and grab his lunchbox
(painted by Estelle to be an Assyrian sphinx) and head home.
Each day, five days a week, for seven years, he's exited this freeway
at BUBBA'S LAWN ORNAMENTS PAINTED OR PLAIN, and
nodded at the plaster hundreds grouped below its awning: gnomes
and bucks, a contingent of Venus de Milos and several representatives
from the world of bare-shouldered flamenco danseuses,
bulbous-bottomed hausfraus with their bloomers comically skewed,
globe-helmeted deep-sea divers with overspilling treasure chests,
a number of Iwo Jima flag-raisings, artichoke-derriered mermaids
and their trident-bearing paramours, guardian lions, borzois
(he thinks they're borzois: some kind of italicized dog), assorted
Viking warriors and strikingly bonneted Indian chiefs
with feathered spears, and seemingly endless frogs and mice and turtles
wearing human attire–snoods or zoot-suits or biker garb . . . .
Okay then, pray for my people, he tells them.


                                                             –from Ancient Musics


Albert Goldbarth, The Kitchen Sink: New and Selected Poems 1972-2007, Graywolf Press, 2007.