The Ode on A Grecian Urn – Patricia Lockwood

Is worth any number of old ladies.
A grandmother hung from a cliff
like a tense moment in an action
movie and the Ode, speaking itself
with its hand on one heart, steadfastly
refused to save her, in fact it did that thing
where it ground each finger out with
a motorcycle boot and then ate
its cigarette for emphasis, whooping;

some old-ass bitch was in pussy church
when the Öde, now spelling itself
with an umlaut, swung its urn
at the back of her head, really clocking her;

till the violets in her church hat grew
from the floor and won a third-place
prize for consciousness;

the Ode is pushing nanas off bridges,
detonating them with dynamite,
tying them to railroad tracks with
squeaky young rope, pouring big glugs
into them out of the skull-and-crossbones
bottle, the Ode is checking
its pocketwatch, which points always
to death-to-old-ladies o’clock,
it is shrieking ugh you’re like one
hundred and your breath smells
exactly like horse medicine
ho, the Ode is blasting holes in them,
is laying them out in the potpourri
aisle, is stabbing them with those icicles
they always said were dangerous,
the Ode means ill to all
of them, the Ode is worth any number    …

and the worst is I believe it. The worst is I will
become one, without having written anything like
the Ode on a Grecian Urn, and sit in long rows
along with my kind, till there the Ode comes striding
toward me, my necessary death at the ready,
my pulse like black grapes at its fingertips,
saying, “Fear not, it will be fast, the forgetting
of great poems will fly through you in bullets”;

beauty is truth, and truth    …
but already I am losing it,
all I know is that the world is falling away,
and you won’t believe what it is wearing,
the ridiculous pantsuit of me, a old lady,
crumpled hopelessly at the crotch,
a flower valiant in its little butthole
— all the vital syllables are being erased —
its space-age fabric now seen for what it is:
an embarrassment, my name is turning
into Edna, Myrtle, Dorcas, my descendants
find my peppermints disgusting,

the urn is approaching to scatter me
over a landscape that is heaven on earth,
and in the feet of the poem I am running
— in mad pursuit, and struggle to escape —
chased as if I am worth one million,
Pearl, Opal, Ruby, Coral,
until I am caught by the feeble arm,

and because it is true I am telling
the Ode: you stood in me like a spine,
put poppies behind my eyes,
just the fact of you, that he took
one raw spring to set you down
instead of going out to tip heifers,
tweak noses, or sexually harass
huge curvy vases, you were for me
too, though they would trade me
in all my Beulahs, have lined me up
to enter that land in my turn, you let me
memorize your most satiny parts
and repeat them in hospital waiting rooms,
first to myself, and then almost out loud,
mine, mine, the world’s, all mine,
something to say in the face of tall sickness
as I quietly try to unwrap hard candies,
as I tug down tissues from my sleeve,
because it is true I am telling you, Ode,
that I had a throat and you boiled in it,

and the Ode is murmuring almost gently,
“But do you like my ending?
Some people don’t like my ending,”
I don’t, I never did, I thought it was
so overwrought,
though now that I’m here myself why not
if it has to be this way
then better
put a bright red cough on all that white