“Carnem Levare” by Joe O’Neill

Carnem Levare

Carnival. Medieval
Latin: Carnem Levare.
Farewell, flesh. 

Like clockwork the command:
abandon the sensual. Along the
Antillean arc, our vertebral isles
heave a joint, subcrustal sigh.
Arising, as one supple-spined,
multihued trickster, we turn
these decrees on their heads,
respond instead with abandon
of a pointedly sensuous kind. 

Respond with the beautifully
soiled, fallible earth and dust
we all are. Respond at dawn
with J’ouvert. Emit in loamy,
malodorous, sonorous whiffs
both the joy of messy existence
and the agape Tyndale insisted,
in the impenitent vernacular that
would cost him his head, merely
meant love.  Meant – despite
the dependably variable inner
weather of our species, despite
our striving and our ever falling
short – that each of us is an odd
sort of sacred, odd sort of loved. 

So, hello to flesh and feeling,
not penance, welcome to thrust
and jiggle, shuck off the carapace
self in which you have served
and sidled too long. Come to
the well where the governed
and the governing unmaster
themselves. Take and drink.
Don’t bother, before or after,
to wipe the bucket rim clean.

Joe O’Neill is a former professor of English at Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico, and an IT executive for the past 30 years. His poems have appeared in The Caribbean Writer, Moko, Litbreak, The Galway Review, The Journal of Caribbean Literatures, and Where I See the Sun: Contemporary Poetry of the Virgin Islands. Joe resides in the BVI and Reston, Virginia (USA)