• Earl Fowler

What to Expect When You're Expecting to be Born

Updated: Apr 18

By Earl Fowler


Mental telepathy, hypnotism, a sculptured Egyptian cat or Peruvian mummy with black, nonhuman eyes, wireless telegraphy, Christian science, the bass line in Just My Imagination, apparatuses for weighing departing souls, bloodletting, the hopeless misery of the years, that sense outlined in the Tibetan Book of the Dead of being between lives, Robert Lowell, head rubbing, bouncing up and down, spits, chirps, clicks, excessive preoccupation with sin and religion, stroking, wiping, twitching, clapping, drumming,

shaking, waltzing about, hoar-frost crystals on blades of grass, unspeakable

fear, mutilation, death's heads, transcendental life preservers, tumbling

clowns, prestidigitation, momentary unconsciousness, illogic, undelivered

aerograms, eternal saints, the king of France, worms in broccoli, flames,

Martin Luther, red and white mice, rough voices that laugh at you,

matricide, patricide, Father's face appearing on a glass and coming at you, peering in from outside the aquarium, something wrong here, violent rushes of blood, a funeral in your brain, drinks of boiling water, pushes of broom handles down throats, a flâneur's search for a death stamped with meaning, casual sadism, Monsieur le docteur’s thrusts of darning needles and/or rumps of turkeys into abdomens and/or throats, Herr Hofrat's pale casts of thought, hints of incest, a great piece carved by some Chinese sculptor into the semblance

of the sexiest man alive

leaps into Mount Mihara and other active volcanoes, chorus girls,

religious medals, John Berryman, strangling with one's own hair

on whose ridge-poles the gulls sit, from which they depart,

the jolly corner housing the ghost of the person you might have been

Alice Staverton has three gold apples in her lap to encourage suitors

old money, new money, wild rumpuses, the wedding china and silver

tea set, drilling of bore holes into brains, application of black widow spiders to skin, holy cards, logical swim bladders, the key to all mythologies, nightmares and the sources of the Nile, Oh my God, what am I? Prelapsarian mud?, threats of cannibalism, paper swirling in the air after the towers collapse, Andy Warhol exhibiting Brillo Boxes, god-steps at the margins of thought,

Claes Oldenburg sculpting sandwiches, the air thrilling with the hum of insects, coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinsaladfrenchrollscress

sandwiches spottedmeatgingerbeerlemonadesodawaterdelmoreschwartz, the Bobbsey Twins, suffocation in hope chests, rosemary beads, prussic acid, gentlemen's clubs, moods of lassitude and dejection, window bolts, ribbons, the mackerel's moiré back, mercury, a brass cross, opium, mourners to and fro, the vast ocean of the light

ineffable, 101 swallowed pins, breathlessness, laudanum, mad applause

for Tinker Bell in the middle of the performance, suicide by cop, the black sleek heads of seals, fentanyl, hypomanic temperaments, the insult that made a man out of

Mac, unseemly nooses 'twixt earth and heaven, vermin killers, a dullness

and thickness of brain, self-immolations, 204 Revolutionary War soldiers

(two complete armies for only $1.98), Jerry Springer coughing backstage,

footless birds of Paradise, chloroform, suffocation by plastic bag, public purveyors of lubricious images on cigar boxes, handwritten notes imploring the intercession of some saint or at least strychnine, the Golden Gate Bridge, diplomatic rumpuses,

please take my advice, please take my advice, please take my advice,

Randall Jarrell, belladonna, the dense forest called Jukai, matches, lighters, nail polish remover, mirrors, dandelion, bottles, ash, scissors, willow, dice made of bone, belts, anguished periods of melancholic insanity, intolerable morbidity, racy French postcards, tamarisk, shoelaces, serpents and scorpions and all

hideous and monstrous things, which writhe and hiss around you,

and discharge their slime and venom over your person, Dame Folly

and Junker George, syrup of poppy, blunting of emotions, featherfew,

various domestic crises, suffocation by any means, really, bathroom door

latches, the Tint you cannot take, melancholie anxieuse, sassafras, guides to

marital hygiene, slowed thinking, projecting corners in water closets, when

all fails images dreams sleep food for thought something wrong here, Benny Profane, ex-seaman turned road mender, making his way to New York via

a string of unsuccessful seductions and dead-end jobs, Theodore Roethke,

empty bottles, sandwich papers, silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends, problems in co-ordination, a frontier cabin big enough for 2-3 kids for $1, smuts in Caroline's eyes, beams between closets, strips of handkerchief or bed linen attached to closet door hinges, the cleft in the Devil's foot, roasted grasshopper with lady-bird sauce, vice squads with cans of kerosene, thoughts like loose dry sand, a ring made of the hoof of an ass's right forefoot, neckties affixed to plumbing fixtures, kings in a tumbrel, St. John's wort gathered on a Friday in the hour of Jupiter, birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant and here's what you get: 36 Dragoons (Cavalrymen), 12 Shooting Infantrymen, 12 Marching Infantrymen, cantlets of speech, sprindrift gazes, a rain of copper bells, the hands still willing, Andrew Marvell warned you about this, no story, only moments, words shed like tears from a plenitude of powers time stores, the Edison light & gas man here to read the meter, factitious feeling not to mention obsessive list-making, the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, 20 dynamic hits, 20 original stars, a blue-skinned sadhu spinning on the rim of the Earth and without further ado:

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