A Bouquet of Knives

When I bend down to smell them

I get an eerie feeling that you’ve done this before
and it came to a sorry end.
What drives me to lower my bucket into the well
of self-torture over and over,
like the bird that keeps flying into the window
above my desk? He smacks himself silly, darts off,
and does the same thing the next day. I assume it’s a he
because no female could be so stupid.
Stop for a second, bird, and think about
what idiot god designed you for such an absurd,
redundant purpose? What kind of an asshole
would garner pleasure from your suffering?
Can’t you do something else compulsively,
something more self-serving? Like building nests
for all the lazy birds? But look at me.
I’m talking to a bird. I’m asking it questions
over and over as if it might look down from my window
and tweet, “This is what I do. What do you do?
What do you do, you boob?” He’d have a point.
We all have to fashion a purpose
out of the mundane things that occupy our
attention. I, for instance, am a knife picker.
I like the sharp ones with the ivory handles best.
I arrange them in a tall clear vase
with just enough water to keep them fresh.
They smell so good I just have to
bend down and take a deep whiff,
even if it means losing face.

Henry Israeli’s books include New Messiahs (Four Way Books, 2002) and Praying to the Black Cat (Del Sol, 2010) and, in translation, Fresco: the Selected Poetry of Luljeta Lleshanaku (New Directions, 2002), Child of Nature (New Directions, 2010), and Haywire: New and Selected Poems (Bloodaxe, 2011). He is also the founder and editor of Saturnalia Books.

*Photo courtesy of anguskirk.