Home PageArchivesVolume no. 6Issue 1Poetry: Michael David Madonick

Rehearsing the Unrehearsable

by Michael David Madonick


we practice his dying over and over making order
from the checks the files the stocks he never taught my mother about
each time it’s another secret
he tells me or he tells my sister
whoever can take it where everything is
where he wants to go
ashes on the golf course
some illegal trip at night across the sand-traps out of bounds
where he wants his ashes spread
but what do I know of the heart the palpitations of the sea
the unearthing sand what do I know of the heart the breeze long in the elms
I listen to shells the conspicuous sounds of birds
the moon hard in the sky what do I know of the heart the fibrillation
the leg of a clam
tide going out surf-fishing sandpipers running at death
pulling at its hide I remember nothing except my father large
driving to Belle Harbor
Grave’s End Bay the green Plymouth
the steering wheel his head some constellation my mother
picking at my sister’s hair over the seat
me I couldn’t imagine how we’d get anywhere without him
how even that time by impulse by magic by forces beyond law he crossed
the line the double lines of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel then hid
behind the Texaco Station to avoid the cops
sirens going past us
and he was still large the bad guy for a moment still a kind of Jewish
Gary Cooper not thin
I don’t know if he would like that my father
but he liked on Saturday mornings to take me to cowboy movies in Yonkers
he’d always tell me how
when he saw WINGS for a nickel they gave him a shake or a pretzel or
both what do I know of the heart just when he’s about to go again
he never does
then I’ve prolapsed
mitral-valve back-flow
something my mother gave to me
a kind of undercurrent an undertow and
I’m four hours strapped down sawed apart Black and Decker crack of the
sternum shells dropped by gulls
clams thirty feet on the pavement near Montauk some angel visits and
I’m still modest how they shaved me down and around and I remember
seeing a 200 pound pig in a slaughter house its pink flesh splayed one
body into wings and the cowboy boots of the meat worker a star
on his buckle his running a blow torch up
down the sides removing the coarsest hair
and they put my heart on ice and coming out of it not knowing
I curse my oldest son “Eat Cow Mahatma” because he’s too placid
tell Henny Youngman jokes go miles into adrenaline asking
where’s the Wizard where’s the Wizard he should have given me a brain
I know nothing and it’s only pain my wife saving me from the Nazarene
nurse who thought at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis I was having a
stroke where’s the green Plymouth I want to know
two shots of heparin in the stomach drawing blood my dad’s still alive
and all I need to know is
if this is what it means
the gunning down the getting up the fighting another day HIGH NOON
the town leaving you me alone pulling the chest tube John Wayne and
no matter what
what you have to do
what I have to do is fight the fight
stay on time
move to the street hope Grace
Kelly is there to meet me
in the buggy and drive us out of town
throw the damn star in the dirt
what do I know of the heart the zipper on my chest the whole operation
an analytical success
I want to drive to Belle Harbor cut across the lines hide behind the big red
star Bob Hope I know nothing of the heart
of pain
of ice I still wonder where they got it
before I go fishing SEVEN ELEVEN or Piccadilly’s the way they slow it
down for sutures scalpels and wire I know nothing
except when I see the slow bluebird near Farmer City
I know its erratic motions its
lacerations of the sky in rye grass up down
that that is my heart
bluebird blue-heart cold in its waiting to be well at the sign
of light the sign of anything a kind of rising up an inconspicuous
flight toward nowhere everywhere wellness almost a song something
my father might hum if he hummed driving to Belle Harbor or driving
away from this earth seeing a kind of star awkward and gangly and blue
and trusting any man anything behind it because the bluebird may die
die in the heart die in the wing in the very bone of itself but never in
its singing never in the song because singing is simply want
and wanting never ends




for The Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory

by Michael David Madonick


“Excuse me, surely you are related to the Deer Family, are you not?”
“Yes,” said the pushmi-pullyu, “to the Abyssian Gazelles and the
Asiatic Chamois—on my mother’s side. My father’s great-grandfather
was the last of the Unicorns.”
“I notice,” said the duck, “that you only talk with one of your mouths.
Can’t the other head talk as well?”
“Oh, yes,” said the pushmi-pullyu. “But I keep the other mouth for
eating—mostly. In that way I can talk while I am eating without being
rude. Our people have always been very polite.”

from “The Story of Doctor Dolittle,” by Hugh Lofting

Imagination does not invite us to ask
where a two-headed animal might
alleviate itself. It tells us—that is,
the side that speaks—that it is so
polite as to never have to speak
with its mouth full—the convenience
it has of two heads. I look at it a long
time, wondering which way it is heading,
the way it came, or the way it seems
to want to go. So deep, so soft, so pointed
a heritage, one aches for its rarity. This is,
after all, an animal of deep regret and hope-
fullness looking as it does forever at where
it came from, and longing for almost anyplace
to go. I suspect it could move in circles with great
ease or stand still for a long time admiring its
lineage, its hindsight, its clairvoyance. It could be
Bambi, if it were not trying so hard, like
some demented jackass, to accom-
modate its separate but equal parts. Two
heads seem one too many even for such a proper
animal as this. I could almost envy its ability
to converse with itself, to be its own confessional,
so full of horns and teeth and absolution. But then, as
if the forces of reality press on the imagination or
vice versa, I think, WHAT A STRANGE UNIT—so erudite,
so sublime, so clogged up to its two heads—and never,
never a natural way to leave any of it behind.


Michael_David_MadonickMichael David Madonick’s awards include the Academy of American Poet’s Prize, the New Jersey Council on the Arts “Distinguished Artist” award, an Illinois Arts Council Grant and an Illinois Arts Council Literary Award. He teaches creative writing at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. His latest book, “Bulrushes,” is available from The Backwaters Press.

“Rehearsing the Unrehearsable” and “Pushmi-Pullyu” are from “Bulrushes” by Michael David Madonick, published by The Backwaters Press © 2013. Reprinted by permission of the author.

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