ordinary in his strength to be so;
and stumpish as a pugilist, he lived
his fists, all ox-neck and thick root,
barrel-chest, battered like a kitchen chair.
man of collars, ties, lustrous black suits,
he'd wear his shirtcuffs rolled, lapels rumpled,
badly creased; and in altercations
the street he'd flare his scarred red hands
scarves or terrible flowers; then twitch,
frown as if surprised to finger dimes
pockets; or else stare off muttering
squinting, his curled hair carved
a vicious white line of scalp, forehead
and large as a hand, and like a hand
his eyes were still.
and fixed upon. Sleepless. Grey. Still.
he seemed a very embarrassable man
all that, wearied, haunted, as if whatever
did he demanded bring a goodness to
world, as if the opposite of good
not evil but indifference: being
the world can also become habit;
lived as if a knowledge not his own
visited upon him.
in the middle of it all
blue cloth cabinet billowed secrets.
became a kind of consolation
it always was and is: he'd slip confined
his curtain and step suddenly free -
at ease, free - dangling from a fist
loosed, smug, still-locked handcuffs;
tear aside the drapery to show
box or trunk still nailed ratchet-tight.
altered, yet all somehow changed;
if to prove what binds men also unbinds.
led by example. He reassured the age.
Yet liberated nothing but himself;
which self? Aping the belted, frothing
in all men, that blunt, too-familiar
of blood, he'd writhe clear of cabinets
all might see unleashed a madness in
world. Straitjackets, strap-beds, crazy-belts,
chairs: the appetites of men
to want to see such acts, to seek
reassurance in rituals like that:
did his suffering tell him of them?
night he'd work contorted, bleeding
full view, knees lashing a littered stage,
methodical. Clearly sane.
loved his gruff propietary love:
onstage like a boxer, arms flung wide,
shout, I'm Harry Houdini and I can beat
man in the house. He became in time
hard, burnished mirror held before a world
failed to recognize itself.
too, are openings.