Betsy Wheeler

Moon Steady
New Poems From the USA


In this sideshow that features an eyeless catfish,
I will perform an act of creation. Into your cupped

palms I will deposit two parts scentless air and one
part dust. You will feel nothing. In front of your closed

eyes I will produce an invisible, silent moth. Believe me,
I speak from the shadowed wings of stage right, and know

well the ways of deception. I am not keen to that sort
of rubbish. This sideshow act will stand on its own,

it will cherish the life of the eyeless fish that guards
its one cold gate. The handsome exoskeleton will take

your nickel into her handsome half-shell mouth
and stack it in the pile labeled “alms.” You must watch

where your tender settles, you must wear these safety
goggles and muffle all of your belches. There will be

a closing act that you will wait for and love with a cautious
terror. Now I will float to the middle of a lake that may look

to you like a simple lot of gravel. Don’t let my eyes paly
tricks on you; I wont even break the surface. I will juggle

these ten bowling pins that spin great figure-eights
in a universe parallel to ours. Over there (where, where?)

the one-man-show will be missing its one man.
I will now fake my way into art school. I will make

the claim that art is fake, sip iced coffee through a straw
and comment on everyone’s work. I will invoke the spirit

of a stolen yellow bicycle. I will dub myself Ruler of Gerbils.
I will be a new-come Muad’Dib. I shall write 8,000 commandments:

There must be spirit in your
                                         wanting. When you leave, there
must be something forgiven.

There must be a need-it-now.
There must be a late bus.
There must be odds.

Where there was a blue pickup
                                               spotted with rust, there must now be
an owner for a cow labeled “fence jumper.”

There must be arrangements.
                                   At least once, there must be a foreskin.
There must be a caught-in-the-rain.

Before you age there must be an ecstasy from
sun-steady to sundown
to moon-up to moon-steady.

There must be talking to the moon and listening
                                   for a reply. There must be covalent bonds
and a formula for exactly one kind of pleasure.

There must be introductions
by those not introduced.

There must be sweat from god-knows-where. There must be ¾-length sleeves.
There must be sweatbands.
There must be hair that is trimmed and hair left well enough alone.

There must be thirsty and there
must be salt. There must be
untouchable relics of porcelain.

There must be eggs. There must be dying.
There must be eggs that live. There must be someone to decide.
There must be some way
                                               to {close the act.}