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Instinct, treasured dangerous thing, survival-sharp
and folded in the breast pocket of a loaned wool suit,
held behind his back, kept like a card in the sleeve,
worn around the neck on a string,
forest-honed into a thin talon of rigid bone
for ripping the meat of words into smaller pieces.
But now a limb withered against his chest,
curled lamb asleep before Lent, attendant
but only decorative, just there in case he needed it
as he stood up from his chair, and the fine point of his tongue
searched the cavity of his mouth and bits of heavy,
fragrant meat fell out.
And then the mouth began to make sounds,
choked howls groping for a vowel or a consonant,
at which point the other diners, guests of the doctor,
promptly put napkins in front of their faces
like what they’d witnessed was not only sacred but contagious,
as if they too might forget their own names.
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Reflecting on three monumental works of modernism—James Joyce’s Ulysses, T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, and Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus—a hundred years on.
Both regulators and employers have embraced new technologies for on-the-job monitoring, turning a blind eye to unjust working conditions.
But I do miss the hymns, / the small, hard apples with their dimpled skin. I do miss / things.