Bruce Beasley

Like Warm Ice Cubes
May 21, 2020 Beasley Bruce

Like Warm Ice Cubes
__________________________________________

 

‘A father is like warm
ice cubes?’
I can’t get any meaning out of that one, Doc

—Asked to interpret intentionally
absurd proverbs, most
“normal” subjects refused

but three out of four psychotics dared
explicate: to A wet bird flies at night
a patient said
You may not know the hour or time
that God shall come
 
and so confirmed his schizophrenia diagnosis.

God is a sopped bird, night-flying. A father
 
is water’s phase transition
in process, trembling
between turbid crystalline
and translucent thermal wet,

oxymoronic

as the anomalous proverb, night-
flown and deepdrenched in its unmeaning.
 
__________________________________________________
 
A father’s oxymoronic as the word
oxymoron,
which means, after all,
sharp-dull:
acute-moronic in Greek.

Acute, moronic, the meaning-stripped
proverbs provide, the researchers say,
“a meaningful
dimension in a clinician’s repertory.”

Have you ever held an ice cube in your fist
long enough to feel
the caverns of its sharpdull
collapse from the bodywarmth
trickle at its core?
Heteromorphic nonesuch, a father

in his natural form
is rigid, hexagonal, strictly fixed.
Whoever even tries to interpret him
is, prima facie, unstable.
He’ll surrender his self-structure
only when touched and so
transfigured.

Melting’s a speed-up of the molecules
so they can disorder
themselves and break

their self-attraction

and so unstiffen, slide
around each other
and get
away:

Cubic, liqueous, semi-vitreous,
a father
buoys himself on what’s becoming
of his newloosed, unexpectantly
warm-flown-outward self.

_____________________________________________

Oxymoronic’s
antonym is plain, which means
“without intricacies or difficulties.”

My father, who told me at 11
never to cry again, boys
aren’t allowed to look so weak,
when I was 13 blubbered
over how drunk he always was, how
ashamed I must be of him, said
Bruce, can you cry too?
No, Sir, I said.  I can’t.
______________________________________

With
intricacies, with difficulties, a father
stabblunts
his way into thaw, which
is a spreading defect of the crystal,
the breaking of all its lattices, what it is.

________________________________________

The ice cube father keeps it together,
my son Jin said,
while the liquid father has much less of a spine
and can boil over very easily.

So which am I, I asked.

Ice cube, of course.
 
_________________________________________

“To differentiate schizophrenics from normals”
researchers developed the Silly Sentences Test:
patients vote True or False to statements like
“Beefsteaks crawl on their bellies.”
True, a schizophrenic answered, confirming
his diagnosis, a cow is still alive before it’s slaughtered,
so it could be true,
they could crawl on their bellies a bit.

__________________________________________

“A father is like warm ice cubes”:
True, I say, we could be—
a collapsed cube-side could crawl on its belly a bit
inside the crystal
where the parallel-faced
hard amalgamation disintegrates
as ice-walls give themselves over to the liqueous
state they once knew, vibrating
faster within and quickened
so they can reach
toward another by shedding
the voids between their lattices:
thawdribbled ice,
freezecrystalled melt, passing out of themselves, coming
warmthickcloser, and getting through.

Bruce Beasley is the author of eight collections of poems, including most recently All Soul Parts Returned (2017) and Theophobia (2012), both from BOA Editions.  A recipient of  an NEA fellowship and three Pushcart prizes, he’s a professor of English at Western Washington University.