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When We Found the Rete

by Edward Mayes

That can’t be used for any other purpose
Than to change what it has been thrown
Upon, as when the egg whites clarify the stock,

As when at the block party we see someone
We haven’t ever seen, the wrong turn,
The envelope we slice our lips on when

We try to lick it, as if it could remain
Glued forever, as if inside it were
A key we are mailing to something

We still can’t imagine opening, six-month-
Old Ettore’s mouth searching for Chiara’s
Breast, and the rest we know, that time

Has shed us more than we have shed time,
If that’s the rule, if the rule can be
Broken like the bicycle chain, to be fixed

Again, inopportune, impromptu, like
Thinking we could have memorized Leaves
Of Grass
if we had taken the time, the expired

Jars of tomatoes we put on the fence railings
And shot at, sometimes the glass shattering red,
Forewarning of the time that we ourselves

Might have exploded, the row we hoed,
The row we tried to subdue, the overdue
Books that have finally become overdone,

And in all of this, Eros loves Psyche, when we
Sow ourselves with love, those stars all
Night the net we’ve always believed we will mend.

Eponym, tautonym (Gorilla Gorilla), heteronym (row row); so sue me; saw, sew, sow, sue; raw, row, rue; rat, rete, Ritalin, rot, rut; medicine as melancholia; afterglow; how phlegm becomes phlegmatic; routine; problematic; the psyche is so somatic; hold is to ship as ship is to sea; bootleg; killing, top billing


Edward Mayes’s poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Poetry, The New Yorker, The American Poetry Review, The Best American Poetry, and elsewhere. His books include First Language (Juniper Prize, University of Massachusetts Press) and Works & Days (AWP Prize in Poetry, University of Pittsburgh Press). He lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina, and Cortona, Italy, with his wife, the writer Frances Mayes. “When We Found the Rete” is part of a series of poems accompanied by the notes from Mayes’s drafts. (10/2013)

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