I. THE INVITATION
‘The honour of your presence’ has been requested
In a world of aunts, nuclear warheads and vitamin pills.
Grandma, in spangles, can levitate to the ceiling
Quicker than you would suppose and the dancing bear,
That’s Grandpa, darling, the claws are a practical joke.
Your sister the moon will be there, and the fireflies will sing
In the cool of the afternoon. The invitations
Have been sent out, engraved and illuminated;
‘To meet the aunts: that stout one with the cigar,
Another one skinny, a third in a violet toque;
How puzzling are the gifts and messengers
Of love, that come in such grotesque disguises.
Mother said she found me curled in a banana leaf;
It was morning of course; the sun with inquisitive yellow
Fingers poked into my secret—which was simply
To be born. In the odor of ripeness a single
Scorpion has already swooned to death
Where the yellow indifferent fingers of the fruit
Point up from the mysterious dust. Mother said
She slept, afterwards, and the breeze blew hothouse airs
Over my cradle in the banana leaf.
III. AN EVENING OF HOME MOVIES
When Aunt Insomnia came back from the planet Mars
With two hundred color slides, five anecdotes,
Some postcards with pretty views of the universe,
And an extra suitcase filled with souvenirs,
Who could imagine her spin, like a top, through space,
And end over end, besides, in her rayon chemise,
Hand-knitted cardigan, and elasticized hose?
It must have filled the angels with tenderness.
She has travelled faster and farther than you would suppose,
To look at her. Has she forgotten the marvels she saw
(The comets with dragon-tails, the siren-stars,
And earth, that was home, a will-o’-the-wisp below)?
Give thanks for her safe return from wherever she goes.
She has shown us the way. Let us listen and be wise,
Say thank you politely, and treasure the souvenirs.
At the death of the little black cat
The universe closed like a clam.
The stars sang, ‘O how beautiful he was,
How black he was, and his paws dipped in milk, how white;
His eyes were bottomless, deserted and green as the water
in a quarry.’
The verdict was murder in the case of the little black cat
Although the lightning found no one to accuse.
How long did he lie there in the moon-colored road
Before the moon took him? Pale moon-cat goddess Pasht,
Tearer and render, devourer of darkness who holds
The sun in your eyes through the gloom of the under-world,
Console us for the death of the little black cat.
The road spills white as milk to the black edge
Of the world, in the mouse-colored morning. The universe
Shuddered shut like a clam at the death of the little black cat.
V. THE QUERY
Right now on the flat roof of the world
A man is selling balloons; he pulls them out
Of the sky; meanwhile, of course, a band
Is playing, four shoeshine boys make change, and
Somebody is running to catch a bus. What
Does it have to do with us? Even there the flowers
Do not bloom ‘in perpetuity’; they are renewed
Quietly, by the municipal authorities. The musicians belong
To a union, and the man with the balloons
Would like to live in Chicago and get rich.
However, the message written along the sky
By the fountains is not all lies;
I’ll read it for you: it says, Right now
On the flat roof of the world, three hundred balloons
Like a cluster of grapes, ripen in the bright blue garden.