Ode to the Grotesque
Predawn cold, and the jet stream of breath
jumps from the snout. The skin’s final form
could be blistered. So say the hands. So says
the bark that half moons the split log.
So says the axe head and sweat lacquered shaft.
A whole cauldron of steam can rise
from the humped shoulders when the body
becomes the blade. One can look villainous,
but what if beauty is the beginning of a terror
we can barely stand? So says Rilke. So say
the Cyclops, the ogre, and the monster
taunted by flame. There was a time
I was afraid of him—this father
carrying wood in his arms like a babe.
Keith Leonard is the author of Ramshackle Ode (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2016) and the chapbook, Still, the Shore (YesYes Books, 2013). Keith is currently a Visiting Lecturer in Creative Writing at Indiana University.
This poem appeared in The Paris-American.