Writing Your Name on a Grain of Rice

(Renaissance Market, Austin, Texas)

He sits in the sun at a very small stand
He made himself from a cardboard box.
On it is lettered in crude Magic Marker
A singular motto, alerting the public
To miniscule wonders undreamed-of in Wal-Mart
Or Target or other fluorescent emporia,
The germ of his fortune (brought over from Turkey),
This mote of divinity with which he’ll invest you
For a divinely low, low price.
He’s Writing Your Name on a Grain of Rice.
                O big Americans,
Open your eyes to this:
Subtle calligraphy, feat graphological,
Infinitesmally perfect inscription
On vellum most humble, each descender a sparrow
Dropped down from the heavens, each serif
A seraph’s own fingernail clipping.
He names you on the least of foods
And imitates the mind of God.
He says before he leaves this plane
For one where size is dwarfed by pure will
And angels dance the hora on a sieve,
He might impart this art, this part
And particle of skill, to one
Whose digits won’t disdain to let it live.
But not, he says, until his dying day.
He is determined to protect his gift,
The solitary glory of his fingers
Which know the secret of this alchemy,
This turning staples into text
And giving voice
To starch.
                Yes,
I think that’s what I’ll be doing today.
Writing your name on a grain of rice.
Because a grain
Is all you deserve.
Because you’re a tourist adrift in my kingdom
(You thought it was Disneyland), litterer, dilettante,
Let’s face it, an idiot, paying good money
To see your fool’s name on this flake of white foolscap
Above which my huge pen impossibly lingers.

1995-1998