from (C)OVID'S METAMORPHOSIS, Book the Fifth

Calliope sings: Persephone's fate

It's too late to question the logic
of curses, to second guess why some birds
deserve hyperlinks while others
fly just enough to see the bodies 
in the back yard from the air. 

By the time I was done counting the marbles
in the huge jar at Bickford’s, 
my entire family had died. 
They didn’t even give me the job.

They made me marry a goat
& plait his hair with bluets 
& glass beads all the long 
winter & in the summer I work 
in a catheter factory to pay off 
my student loans.

My mother wept 
when I told her
I thought it was a rabbit
& not a duck. 

This is a cautionary tale;
don’t count your chickens
because you don’t have any chickens.

Calliope sings: Arethusa’s story

Far above us, there's a woman
in an invisible jet, & the best she can do 
to help us is conjure an obscuring
mist.  I wish there was a greater
defense than concealment.  Along
the riverbank, there are two sets of footprints, 
& one of them belongs to God
who keeps asking for change. 

What kind of superpower 
is turning into water, anyway?
Can’t even have a drink
when the ocean’s all around you,
salty & vast.  I identify 
as an island in the stream 
of consciousness.  

Calliope sings: Triptolemus. The Fate of the Pierides

I can’t tell if this bit about seeds
& untilled soil is metaphorical or not. For real,
I feel like this translation is akin 
to playing Candy Land with only half of the pieces,
the box held together w/ masking tape.  
When you get sent back to the beginning,
you have to stare into your reflection & whisper,
Okay boomer three times in rapid succession.
This will be the sin for which  you will be 
transformed into a Flu Bird or one of those 
drinking ones that keeps bobbing up 
& down until the colored water in the bulb
of its ass evaporates.  

When the storm cleared & at last 
the dove alit on the prow 
of our lonely ark:

the dove had the plague.

from (C)OVID'S METAMORPHOSIS, Book the Fifth

Calliope sings: Ceres searches for Proserpine

My finger nails became pitted around the same time

I arrived at the city by the sea. You see, I’ve

tipped as many cattle as I have pennies

in my pocket.  When I was found out,

that’s when my body softened

into this malleable ball of teeth

& liver spots & the occasional clump

of hair.  There where no light goes you

will find where the things you’ve lost

have gone & coagulated into a greasy clump.

A vast fatburg of expectations, dreams

& desires.  The hero’s katabasis leads

into ruin & the god of the grain is resurrected,

ruined.  You’ll not slay me, coughing

sneezing hordes, because here I stay

in my impenetrable misery.

Calliope sings: Ceres asks Jupiter’s help

The Pisan Cantos might prop up

a wobbly television.  The Rings of Saturn

can’t really be spoiled by knowing

the plot.  The photo of my mother

is cropped such that it is no longer

a reliable source.  Notes from

Underground once came in the mail

from the Book-of-the-Month-Club.

The edition was hardback but otherwise

I remember nothing of it.  “Thunderstruck”

is a song by a band whose albums

I’ve never owned, but I remember seeing

the cover of Dirty Deeds Done Dirty

Cheap & wondering what dirty deeds

were & why were they so expensive

to begin with.  You might use Infinite

Jest to kill the fuck out of a house

centipede who in turn just used

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

to make a lunch of a passing cockroach.

Hint: we’re the cockroaches;

true story--at the conclusion of our

study of James Joyce we were supposed

to bring in something that would be a pun

on the title.  There were plenty of Portraits

of the Harpist as a Young Ham, but I

brought in a bag of rune stones

because I’m stupid & I have no sense

of humor.

from (C)OVID'S METAMORPHOSIS, Book the Fifth

Calliope sings: Cupid makes Dis fall in love

Trapped under this mountain of debt, I call out

to Aetna’s customer service reps only

to be denied even the faintest of praise

for my branded abdomen.

I’m fucking Dis

custed, in this

dress.  Trust me,

I’m a doctor of calligraphy, & I have embellished

what my mother called cuss words w/ such flourish

as to render them transcendent.  There are two wolves

inside of me & each of them

demands his own weighted blanket.

The yeomen gather in the background

so their shirts can serve as green screens.

Keep the camera on the action &

& let the aardvarking bend & swerve.

The only emperor is the emperor of Lubriderm.

Calliope sings: Dis and the rape of Proserpine

Plant abundant shrubbery to hedge against

the prying eyes of the incels who squat

two houses down and on the left.  It’s right

& proper to strike the earth when you’re in danger

of being subsumed into somebody else’s drama:

unleash the alligators even if the moat

is still filling slowly from the garden hose.

Let their chariot be swallowed headlong

by the sarlacc you imported before the tariffs

became too burdensome & lift your horn

like an anacrhonism straight to something

just like heaven but made from mycoprotein.

The antlered hear appears just below

the grate: we’ve got Charmin down here

& the rest is history & by history I mean

something well-documented that may

or may not have happened.  Turns out

she really just wanted to watch

the third season of Stranger Things

& freeze the rivers while she counts

all the rainbow nerds in the crystal

skull goblet.

from (C)OVID'S METAMORPHOSIS, Book the Fifth

Minerva on Helicon

But the tale is true: Fruit
Gushers might survive any 
apocalypse as long as temperatures
remain mild. My child,

Parnassus Investments offers
only moderate returns,
but investing w/ a clear conscience

comes at a price.  You can hear
the hooves of two out of four horsemen
on the roof even now.  

Drag our homemade UV lighting
rig into the bunker so that we might 
cleanse our innards 

for Jazzercise on Webex while the neon
gods prance among the stylized 
palm trees & manifest on the glass

of nail salons.  Tie the offering 
with fat laces & come 
with hair frosted & teased 
to the four corners of the Earth.  

The contest between the Pierides and the Muses

& he turned himself into a ram, an ostrich,
an ocelot w/ a hankering for the flesh
of well-fed Midwesterners 
whose trigger fingers were calloused 
from Machinima orgies on Call of Duty.
Solemnly, he put all of the stuffies 
in the shopping cart & cried out nine times
to the muses; Io, sentai team; Io, cop
drama; Io, teenage sex romp; Io, 
spaghetti western; Io, shaggy dog addiction
narrative; Io, Saturday morning cartoons;
Io, Dance Party USA; Io, blaxploitation;
Io, Nic Cage vehicle; accept this burnt offering
of Flowers for Alegernon & make my 
sickly fingers fleet.

From (C)OVID'S METAMORPHOSIS, Book the Fifth

Perseus uses the Gorgon's head

I emerged from the fog 
 to find that I’d droppered belladonna
into my right eye 

& all I had to show for it
was this viral clip of me collapsing
on the palace stairs.

That’s when I took to the ether,
during this sad state
of affairs, & either direction

was fine as long as it meant
their thoroughbreds wouldn’t flare their nostrils
at you when faced w/ the closure

of Smoker’s Shangri-La due to 
health code violations & a failed

Use your head for something 
other than an aegis, but please
do it in the privacy of your own

breakout group or at least
pixelate to protect the 
witnesses who want to begin 

new lives in South Dakota
where the sun bleaches your skin
right to the bone.  No virus

survives, but surprise,
the virus was people like me
all along. 

Phineas is turned to stone 

Don’t make fun of my flat 
affect; it makes it far easier 
to lie to your face with a visage
of stone because what can you do 
when you’re finally busted
for building that roller coaster
in the backyard while
your parents were out of town?
Sometimes submission is the only way
to survive when summer’s almost
gone.  Simultaneously, the pool 
fills with my wayward tears
& the AC rumbles like 
the angry god astride 
the dune buggy that killed 
Frank O’Hara.  Godspeed you
emperor penguin, adelie penguin,
little rockhopper 
with your smooth stone potential 
mates kick back into the churning 
glacial surf.

From (C)OVID'S METAMORPHOSIS, Book the Fifth

The fight: The deaths of Idas, Chromis and others

He will be remembered in the stars, 
for he smote the mightiest of the soccer moms  
w/ his mother’s Pyrex mixing bowl brought back 
from Portugal or maybe Spain.  After great pain, 
a formal request from the centaur to begin 
the ceremony.  The auditorium was vast, yes, 

yet still not spacious enough. 
to accommodate every member of the 90s
swing revival revival.  & the combat raged on. 
Lightning bolt.
Lightning bolt.
Lightning bolt.
Lightning bolt.
Lightning bolt.
Lightning bolt.
Lightning bolt.
Lightning bolt.
Lightning bolt.
Lightning bolt.
Lightning bolt.

The fight: Lampetides, Dorylas and others

My kink is stealing the noses of lecturers 
while they’re still at the podium.  When we met,

I offered you a taste of my favorite bog body
& you declared it too soapy for your liking.

That’s fine if you don’t mind
seeking asylum on the patio.  After all,

there are seminarians who refuse to be
petitioned, even if the amulet

glows dimly in the presence of deep state
operatives or wendigos. 

On 4/20 we unleashed the Kentucky Goblins
on an admiring public. 

See how they shimmy & shake
& own the librettos like holler 

Nibelungen.  Hush my glorified 
roommate, the lion sleeps all day  

in the home office, the mighty 
home office.

From (C)OVID'S METAMORPHOSIS, Book the Fifth

Phineus seeks revenge for the loss of his bride

I know what we’re gonna do 
today: we march on the capital 
& demand access to chicken wings
& bottomless mozzarella sticks.  A fool 

is soon parted from his stimulus, 
& those of us glutted on the blood 
of assistant managers will pull down 
the plywood & take our places

in abandoned Hollywood bungalows. 
I’ve never had any thing to lose,
but lose anyway.  Vengeance is for 
people with lawns.  

Take it easy, there’s enough 
hemlock for everyone--remember 
to indicate “Untimely Death” 
on your timecard before proceeding

to the gallows you may need to share
a gallows with contingent faculty.

The fight: the death of Athis

From his pierced nipples, he had hung
an agate amulet & a pocket-
sized Purell dispenser.  He crossed
the threshold, calling out for a reasonable
co-payment, but was met w/ squadrons
of unemployed classic rock DJs who demanded
that he call in to win a set of tickets
to see a SoundCloud rapper who died 
in 2016.  The amulet grants the ability 
to speak to soccer moms.  Teach me 
to be cruel, like the way they tortured 
you the soccer moms say & activate 
active camouflage.  Like they were 
never there at all. You wake up 
one morning & BANG
you’re on fire.  Don’t go 
into the light that never goes out,
go gently into that good night 
club where doyennes walk coughs
in plastic.

from (C)OVID'S METAMORPHOSIS, Book the Fifth

Calliope sings: Persephone's fate It's too late to question the logic of curses, to second guess why some birds deserve h...