Poetry

Ceremony

Margaret Ross

I lean against the island
in the white loft of an engineer.
He tells me he spent ten years learning
how not to get angry. People without
anger are more developed.

Aren’t you angry at what’s happening in the world?

I mean angry at the people I know.

I try to argue in a tone that doesn’t
make him feel superior. I touch
his junk mail, sunglasses on the counter.
The same remote that summons fire
from a recess by the sofa
lowers gray blinds.

We go upstairs so I can beg him
not to fuck me while he fucks me like
we like. The tv shines an aerial shot
of terraced rice fields
pricked with blue dots which are
hats of people harvesting. The fields
fade into houses by a harbor which
becomes a desert, glacier, skyline
turning into fields again.

Then we come back into our names
and I watch that other person
tip his face back, drinking from a metal bottle.
The elegant lines of his arm. He moves
with an unembarrassed clumsiness

related to grace. He doesn’t close
the bathroom door when shitting.
He says he can if I’m inhibited
but he isn’t. He loved someone
with a disease and held her hands
while she cried on the toilet.

Now he loves the city we live in,
its offerings. For $20 we see
a 30-minute opera rehearsal. Singers
wearing street clothes push two chairs together
for a bed one singer dies in. The plot is revenge
says the director, before the singing starts.
Even if we speak Italian, we won’t
understand, so altered is the language
by the voice. At the restaurant

afterward, the waiters have to wear
fake traditional Thai costumes and their hair
scraped up the same way. One walks
between the tables in a shoulder yoke
suspending appetizers. Many people

think people are getting smarter, freer. For $50
you can buy a ceremony starter kit to center
your self to purify your day. Something
to burn, something to say, something
to mark space. I can spread a cloth.
I can lay a rope around myself.

Margaret Ross is the author of A Timeshare. She is currently a Jones Lecturer at Stanford University.
Originally published:
January 1, 2020

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