Self Portrait as Double-Agent

—to JB

The ancestors once rode atop floating barrels
painted like horses.
Across the Atlantic!
Truly, they were straight-backed sportsmen then!
Watching gypsy women
clad in bloomers

and blue-pink paisley scarves wrestle, clawing
hands clutching chestnut hair—skin
parade—fighting for the right
to marry the same man—his hand
more than just their prize.
A box, papered and bowed,

a mouse glued to the floor inside,
heart beating so hard, goddamn
skin popping of its bones.
Mercy Lord.
Who were those men?
To call for a sword

to pass through the country
and cut loose shopping carts
bicycle rickshaws tattoo artists collectors of stamps—
every blade pleading, ‘More Sport!’
‘Blood bloom from a brother’s throat!’
Upside down, dangling in slaughterhouse sheds

full of moonshine stills and cobwebbed tack,
walls still quivering from stomping feet
imaginary hooves and headless cyclists.
Stop at all the cross walks—simple
painted lines connecting courthouse steps to
swinging doors of Boy-o’s Salloon—

you want them to hate to see you love—

to go to see you leave.

And the ancestors will shift anxious foot to foot,
become the mighty painted Holsteins
chewing cud by the edge of a hay field:

lithe long-legged women with tousled auburn locks.

Predestination is a trick of the trap
that can never be out-witted.
We all become the cud.

Mark Gosztyla graduated from the University of New Hampshire’s MFA program in May of 2009. He’s had poetry and non-fiction recently published in The Helix, Scarab, Competitor Magazine, and Foster’s Daily Democrat. Mark now lives in Somerville, MA and teaches poetry writing at Tufts University.