Paul Violi

                              More On the Heroic Deeds and Manner of
                              the Worthy Rabelais, Doctor of Medicine

"Rabelais," Pantagruel continued, "was a marvelous person
to see and know even when he was hung over.
      "If he smiled, it was roses, junkyard roses;
      "If he sneered, it was an ox waking up in a honey pit;
      "If he sighed, it was bygones;
      "If he blinked, you could hear it;
      "If he was angry, it was How to Embarrass an Idealist;
      "If he was pleased, it was hammers, it was sparks flying off nailheads at twilight;
      "If he was in a good mood, you knew it was the storm's paraph;
      "If he spat, he spat moths.
      "If he was queasy, it was Closed for Alterations printed on his eyelids;
      "If he was worried, the sky was an erased Tiepolo;
      "If he was complimentary, it was palm readers slapped across the face;
      "If he had a sneezing fit, it was roadside yo-yo, it was the same cloud of flies blown
off a dead raccoon again and again by speeding Chrysler Imperials.
      "If he slept well, it was Aristotle, Aristotle, Aristotle;
      "If he didn't, it was plumbic odes for breakfast;
      "If he didn't sleep at all, it was Kierkegaard and beans.
      "If he scribbled, it was a pile of rope;
      "If he sketched, it was Pleasure Seekers at 2 A.M.;
      "If he painted, ripples it was on the surface but Milton and Beethoven, deaf and blind
and furious three fathoms below, groping, jabbing and screaming at each other eternally.
      "If he murmured, it was soil enriched with dragon blood;
      "If he vomited, it was historical, it was Hannibal pouring boiling vinegar on Alpine
slopes so his troops wouldn't slip in the ice;
      "If he just belched, it was fiction and any resemblance to actual persons or places
purely coincidental and gladly welcome.
      "If he was love-struck, it was Leda and the Swan, it was the Boss Swan Overture, it
was wings gulping white and gold, it was fly her into a standstill, it was crucial creatures
stirring up realms of trouble;
      "If mere lust, it was Leda and the Duck, your common poker flip-flipping along the
muck-edge of things.
      "If he was perplexed, it was a crow and its shadow goose-stepping over a snowbank;
      "If attentive, it was an upright groundhog;
      "If he twitched and drooled, it was the Alemanni stammering into a lambent temple;
      "If he went drinking again, he'd invite his favorite fallacies:
      "If it as ad hominem, it was Have one on me and grow real tired of yourself long
before you die;
      "If ad misericordium, Could you spare a glass of water?
      "If petitio principii, Tequila with an empty bucket on the side, please;
      "If non sequitur, a shot of whiskey with a coffee chaser;
      "If ad baculum, it was Let's dribble the bouncer.
      "If he had too much Barolo, it was Hey, look at these flesh-colored tattoos;
      "If it was Chardonnay, it was a cool draft from a mine shaft, cool as a flute;
      "If it was Chianti, it was twelve gauge, it was a bat hunt in formal attire;
      "If it was strong ale, The gods love an intelligent slut;
      "If weak ale, it was starving prisoners waiting for their fingernails and hair to grow
into a snack;
      "If it was rum and tea, it was Merry Morning Melodies;
      "If it was champagne and brandy, it was 'cheerful stoicism,' it was pensioned
gladiators, it was gladiolas, glad to be here, glad to be of help, glad to see you, glad to see
you go.
      "And the strange thing was that even if it was well water, he never knew when to
shut up."

Paul Violi, Selected Poems 1970-2007, Rebel Arts, 2014.