Jan Clausen
Ode to Rigor

He was illiterate: he could not read, but he could sing, and like the illiterate nightingale was sometimes the composer of his own song.
—Herman Melville, “Billy Budd, Sailor”

Bound for a demonstration to blow up pronouns,

the Handsome Sailor threw a punch.

This is an ode to rigor to the pallor of the thinker,

pirouetting on a frozen sea….

This is an ode to cognitive erectile monuments.

All ardor hurts, thou cynosure!

The Handsome Sailor can’t scan verse he can’t
    spot irony.

A plucky kid, but he ain’t no Joan of Art.

When a girl steps out in a home-sewn dress with

there’s consternation in the ranks.

On a rickety stage, the velvet curtain torn,

he’ll ace his orals in oblivion

as spring lungs out of a birdthroat, hacks my

What shall we do with an angel, hanging father?

To cite sources in MLA format

To wax, by turns, analytic and synthetic

To languish in regimes of the risk-averse

To fight the global war on torpor

To pine for the belletristic

To quote Chaucer in Middle English

To invoke Petronius

To tap with the rattan the boyish cheeks

To arsenal one’s womanhood in lace

To discipline and burnish

To deploy the word ekphrastic

To turn one’s back and elevate the text

To stand with drawn swords behind the men
    working the guns

To vouch that nothing is perceived amiss

To swoon in syntactical darbies

To hanker

To hunker

To stammer

To titter

To bleed

To sing jazz standards for the Board of Trustees

To take, light-fucked, the full rose of the dawn

To grow, at long last, weary of a structure

To bless one’s hangman

or to mutiny