Up is like down when you’re hanging by your ankles:
You might learn languages,
Or see the future,
Or find yourself, blood slamming into your brain,
Nailed to an upturned tree of your own choosing,
Hearing only the leathery whisper of myriad wings.
The Hanged Man’s modern message could just as well be
It’s not how you feel, it’s how you look.
Odin serene, winning an alphabet with his pain,
Peter dying apocryphally inverted,
A mercenary in effigy, shamed for changing his mind —
Covering their hurts in fine linen shirts and
Describing themselves in the language of used books.
This poem was another collision of influences: An exercise on simile and metaphor provided the first line; the other images followed quickly from that. The title came from a used-book site and had spent a couple of years in my pool of scattered lines and phrases, waiting for a home.