A Secretary of the Invisible Thing

Lance Larsen | Poetry

This the exact phrase Milosz uses to describe  
himself and other poets, not one  
who dictates but one who takes dictation,  
who eavesdrops on seraphs or crooked  
weather or the Zeitgeist and holds it  
inside for later. If you dance with  
the invisible thing, some call it the Tarantella. 

If you rub the bumps of the invisible thing 
found on someone’s head, phrenology.  
Some go bowling on Taco Tuesday  
to knock down invisible things everywhere,  
pins glowing green like squirrels after Chernobyl. 
In fifth grade I received a chain letter.  
If I broke it, the invisible thing threatened  

to hurt my family, especially my little sister,  
but if I did as instructed, I would receive  
77 postcards from Tahiti. My sister  
caught the mumps, and I’m still waiting  
for a flood of hula girls and exotic stamps.   
Was I deceived by the invisible thing?  
Maybe, but when the invisible thing gets loose,  

anything can happen, maybe group meditation  
in an aspen grove at Burning Man,   
maybe a restraining order in a trailer park  
on the edge of Fresno. I knew a busboy  
who ate cold fries off a girl’s plate to get close  
to her spit. I knew a woman who left open  
bibles around her bed to scare off ghosts.  

Both of them, I swear, were secretaries  
in training. Once in the Rothko Chapel,  
I dozed off, waking not to black panels  
but the invisible thing inside me: a kaleidoscopic  
pulsing that won’t stop, not even when  
my body stops. I’m haunted by so many  
things. By bossa nova and black holes, 

by the older brother my mother miscarried,  
by ragged beauty everywhere. By my daughter’s  
toddler, Jojo, in my kitchen sink waving 
goodbye to draining bathwater, whirlpool 
as elegy. But how to define the invisible  
thing¾a magnetic north we’re hardwired  
to follow, a vector, a voice without a mouth? 

William Blake used to wander his garden  
naked. The question isn’t, Did Blake really see  
angels in his apple tree? but Why can’t we?  
My face is flushed, I’m a house on fire,  
a burning no thermometer can read.    
Whatever you are, whoever I’m taking  
dictation from, hurry up and put me out.