Yet Another Reincarnation
I pay my soothsayer in hard-boiled eggs, chicken wings,
gristly claws, livers or gizzards—she believes in the due process
of tempests, visions of omniscient butterflies. An old woman
scrubbing floors portends violent crime or racketeering;
finch in the hand, fraud or incest; beetle on the mantelpiece,
ill health. She snatches invisible lassos from the air, spins dizzy
larks above my head, everywhere she sees living dead,
centuries of men on the low road to the county fair, millennia
of citizens ensnared in menial tasks, plowing, sewing, reaping,
daydreaming; mostly she knows where lightning will hit,
who will spontaneously combust, become president,
overnight millionaire. With my own eyes I saw her heal
a cancerous man, the single touch of her arthritic hands.
Twice she foretold my almost-demise, the possible grand curtain,
a lifetime of sighs, once a jet in the skies, once in a train wreck—
she hears the constant chatter behind, grandmothers and aunts and
ex-wives. The past is a series of dots you can trace through the sky.
It’s the future that’s harder to count, though in a finite universe
only so many spots can branch out—think of it as an astral crossword.
And the crowds that shuffle ahead and behind, dead or alive,
all animated beings begging for sound advice on love and career,
sex and disease, there’s little she hasn’t been forced to hear—
even in this lifetime—so she raises her soul-umbrella,
an unseen parasol, to ward off gnashing thunder of lost voices,
stinging hail of multiple choices; and in her abode of double-entendre,
a ghostly breeze blows, two degrees warmer than outside the door,
it snakes under your skin and coils there until you’re quite ready
to unravel. The wife thinks I’ve lost my head in the wild ranting
of this other woman, and she swears by Almighty God the fields
will remain parched and the harvest a washout if I keep this up—
one day she says the earth will buckle beneath my legs
and in my next life when I return as a moth, destined to bump
around lamps, perch still, motionless on bark in broad daylight
and three days later I shall lay my pearly eggs on the leaf
of an elm, shaded in the gables of a chicken coop, and over
and over, the clucking, the clucking, the clucking.
Marc Vincenz is British-Swiss, was born in Hong Kong, and has published eight collections of poetry: The Propaganda Factory, or Speaking of Trees; Gods of a Ransacked Century, Mao’s Mole, Behind the Wall at the Sugar Works (a verse novel), Additional Breathing Exercises (bilingual German- English), Beautiful Rush, This Wasted Land and its Chymical Illuminations (with Tom Bradley and forthcoming, Becoming the Sound of Bees (Ampersand Books). His chapbooks are Benny and the Scottish Blues, Genetic Fires, Upholding Half the Sky and Pull of the Gravitons. He has been published extensively in many journals and anthologies, including: The Manhattan Review, Washington Square Review, Guernica, The Bitter Oleander, Battersea Review, St. Petersburg Review, Fourteen Hills, Exquisite Corpse, Spillway and The Canary.
He is also the translator of numerous German-language poets, including: Erika Burkart, Ernst Halter, Klaus Merz, Andreas Neeser, Markus Bundi and Alexander Xaver Gwerder. His translation of Alexander Xaver Gwerder’s selected poems, Casting a Spell in Spring, is soon to be released by Coeur Publishing/Spuyten Duyvil. He has edited various anthologies and selected works of other poets, including Hugh Fox’s last and posthumous collection, Primate Fox. He has received grants from the Swiss Arts Council for his translations, and a fellowship and residency from the Literary Colloquium Berlin (LCB). His own work has been translated into German, Chinese, Russian, Romanian and French.
He lives in Cambridge, MA.