Ralph Culver

Paramouria & You Do What You’re Good At
May 23, 2020 Culver Ralph

You know (you think), and then
you think you know you don’t,
and then all you know is only
that you think you need to know.
You think: the kids know. Friends.
Your father seems to hint at it.
Elected officials huddle, murmuring.
And so: you, tightening down the cap
of spermicide, exacting
alignment of the marks
on top and tube you have etched
with a diaper pin;
you, propping with grim purpose
the diaphragm case against
the cluttered, innocent
inhabitants of the medicine cabinet,
awaiting some skewing disturbance
of urgency and precaution—
a precise haphazardry
against which any chance
of happenstantial re-creation
all odds are.
Some days you
scrutinize this craftsmanship
more than once. You
begin to notice you spend
more time than ever
out of the house. She acts
as though this concerns her
but you are being guileful,
providing opportunity. And so:
a wretch, self-sickened,
you sit alone in bars,
oblivious to the sidelong come-on,
the whispered hey-there, and
sweat away the hours, head home
to a greeting of unmatched
passion and intensity. You fuck
as though you were inventing
the wheel. And after? While you
piss more on the bathroom floor
than not as you stretch
to reset the snare behind
the mirrored door, she
lies pooling the crushed sheets,
beside herself, afire, certain
in her apprehension:
the foreign perfume that she swore she traced
along your collar bones describes
a flaming arc, an accusative cascade
of sparks, across
the American night!


Half beached, half borne
on the pond’s jade palm, to the neck
in lakes and thundered over
by water shorn from high rock,
on pool tables, in the backs
of vehicles stilled and moving,
upright or hunched over
in every room, kitchen, living, bath,
laundry, foyer, den and dining,
and in beds on floors, beds
that hung suspended from cables,
beds of straw, spring and water,
cotton, flannel and satin,
in crash-pads and under canopies
with breakfast and roses,
by log and candle, sun and moon,
and in the sweep of a thousand lamps
bearing off darkness of varying degree
they are moaning over me, under me,
before and behind me, the list
of those having had none better
growing longer as I sing
Back, Death, back,
only knowing you do what you’re good at,
knowing dying
is what I am doing here.

Ralph Culver divides his time between Vermont and central Pennsylvania. His work has appeared over the years in many print and online journals, and his most recent book of poems is A Passable Man (MadHat Press, 2021). He has a new collection, This to This, forthcoming in 2024.