[Reprinted from Poetry, August 2000]
On a grabbed
notepad we scribbled
forced your eyes
a nod, a squeeze,
torn between letting
you sleep, making
you see our words
not sure we'd
enough through the years,
sheet after sheet.
[Reprinted from Bottomfish, Spring 1998]
At woods' end
the grind and roar. See
toothed shovels forcing
soft green into chunked
brown rubble, three
field into mall.
But this egret
standing in its pond,
unruffled by the rumbling wheels,
staring into blue air,
in its thin white uniform.
At the Pediatrician
When I ask about
he points along the graph,
says, She'll be continuing at this rate
about five three and a half.
I laugh, because
how tall I am, because she's got
my chin and hair already,
a mole on her face where mine's at.
While he shines
his penlight, I see
myself inside her, imagine
the graph we share for melancholy,
a fixed, straight line.
T w i n
as you talked
miles away on the phone
I heard my own
voice coming back,
as kids, switching beds,
my giggles Mom and Dad
thought were yours in the dark,
what Mom said,
that even the doctor
with his stethescope examining her
forty years ago
to our hearts in the womb,
certain we were one
and an echo.
[Reprinted from Gulf Coast]
Jesus said, Woe to the flesh that hangs from a soul. Woe to the soul that hangs from flesh.
Dear Meat: you have a problem we cant fix.
You cant be saved, since youre not spiritual.
You may as well just suck that crucifix,
Curl like a dog that licks an injured paw
Over and over, just making everything worse.
Your new disease is what you are: your crawl,
Your tricks, your spells, the quoted Bible verse
This day you shall be with me in Paradise
Are proofs the soul will kill to get a divorce.
Red rib cage burst to mouth, and mouth to vise
Too clear for teeth, and teeth too sharp for lips,
Lips too cut for anything thats wise . . .
You sit at the bar while little girls with hips
Fight over you, or what they think you are.
One is angry, and would love to cash your chips
With a nail in either wrist, a nail to star
The ankles nebula together loud.
I could have called an angel legion here
Or disappeared into the milling crowd,
Laughing as they crucified my double.
I dont belong here! We say this when in doubt,
Or when its clear we cant seduce our trouble.
The demons of mercy came to me, and they
Werent wearing much, as if to tempt the flesh
Of blinded soul turned into skinless, moaning
Meat. I wanted them inside me, like bone
Beneath a wound, bruised and aching to poke
Bloody air. I wanted them to take
Control and whip me into whatever shape
You need to take the nails right up the wrists.
The demons of mercy licked my skin, my nipples,
I felt as pretty as Jesus on the Cross,
His perfect body, mostly nude, and cut
Like vinegar, not wine. Oh, Christ is hot
For you, he wants the part you keep inside
Your mouth, the pearl that only tongues of flame
Stiff up to tongue. And when you speak in foreign
Languages, your lips produce new blood.
And dont forget the crown of thorns. I want
Mine forged of white titanium and wrapped
Like a bustier around my waist, as tight
As flesh bites down on soul, and wont let go.
Oh, little girl, the world is coming to an end,
You may as well just let the boys come pull
Your hair, the way I let them suck my side
The only thing they draw is holy water.
Dear Gas: the orthodox are not so sure
The soul arises without heavenly flesh.
And anyway, whod want to be so pure
Youd lack the eyes to see with, skin to touch
Those sexy angels, and their diaphanous gowns
So clear you can see colors through, like fish
In lacey nets, the ruby pinks and browns
They like to rub against your spirit back
As if by accident. Like lascivious nouns,
I know the flesh can take you off the track
And dump you in some barroom all alone
With country music and a mood so black
Youd blow your brains out if you had a gun.
Thats why everyone I know wont arm
Themselves. Depressed, wed suck the bullet home
In hopes it hit the burrow of the worm
That coils around Pleasure. So crucified,
It would be worth the flat and useful burn,
Meat free of consciousness, free to decide
If tongue and skin, exploring space, should frisk
Each other, blood and muscle, or retract
False teeth, that candy-ass spear of a leafy kiss.
So this is the cemetery, the sunken graves
And limestone from the nineteenth century.
Mesquite outlines the reach of skeleton,
Dead pioneers, whove nothing to do with me
Or you, except this walk through cactus groves
And cattle walls that no one minds anymore.
Huge spider webs, like old relationships,
Were promises through which we blindly tore
Right to the line, the barb and wire, the dead.
Right here, their chests collapsed beneath the dirt
As if the heart and history, too weak,
Could not support the burden, or the work.
Oh, Evelyn, for every change we make,
We make a grave. The past does not slide on
Like shoulders over twisted wire. You shrug
The skin off, diamond back, then snap the turn
The way trails take you back where youd begun.
These ranchers ended up in this mosquito
Grove. It could be worse; this park surrounds
Their enterprise, the traces of water holes
And wagon wheels, wild birds, and rabbits built
To tear across the jack, the mesquite brush,
Persistent, armadillo-like, and slow.
Oh, Evelyn, for every skin you touch,
The deltoid into target and the sign
Of alligator pigs gone wild, the feral
Byzantine, mosaic without design.
The dead are kicks inside the pricks, the tale
More interesting than ours, unreason in
The formula. Grasshoppers on the shirt.
Fat spiders over the only trail that seems
To take us out, if out is anywhere.
But were the lucky ones, the damaged ones,
The shallow sky, the clay of orange fire,
Deer shit like liver, the play of cactus tongue.
Eye peeling like the mesquite does its bark,
I know were in here somewhere, like that turtle,
Getting a little air, but just enough
A mouthful bites off all the change that matters.
Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardeneth.
Gray water, fortress waves: we feared Gods wrath,
But found the way most smooth, with porpoises
And dolphins sporting round the bowsprits haze
Escorting us like angels to the New
Jerusalem, the colonies, the Church
Where sheep are shepherded away from goats
By ministers distinct from wolves. The flock,
The Church Invisible, are dolphins arcing
Out of the profane, then back into the brine
Of gravity and flesh, the NO to grace
That drags saints to the city beneath the sea.
Jonahs our curse: we preach to souls we hate.
The sea rises up as if to swallow us,
As if the boat, tossed like a false confession,
Spells driftwood, the lamb that wanders away: my soul . . .
I preach, but I dont know if I am saved . . .
Some days, the sun burning especially bright
And true, the crew sharpens a small harpoon,
Takes a porpoise that frolics close to the bow.
Once opened upon the deck, the entrails spill,
The liver, lights, the heart and guts, the spirit
Of the thing, for all the world a swine,
As if we were back in sweet muddy Norwich,
The kingdom of the Beast. The countryside
We stumbled through, here present on the sea
The Savior gutted out for us, a fish
Filleted and butchered like an English hog.
The stench of the Divine: the carnal mind
Like a squeamish vegetarian. We eat
The stuff of God, afraid justification
Attacks our sanctity, the gizzard walk
Of prayer and fasting, the frolicking of flesh.
These dolphins live their baptism, they arc
Into the rollers, glowing red and green,
They take their bitter diving like a grace,
A grace that breaks them down for sacrifice,
Then butchery, blood, and the wake of vicious God.
The Kingdom is a song you almost hear
Out of a sea confused with tearing fins
And rudders pointing nowhere. Salvation pokes
Like fingers slicing up to take a piece
Of what drains through the painful fist: the World,
The Flesh, The Devil. Heavens Ephemeral.
These dolphins prove that grace is subject to
The knife of lust, the history of kitchen.
These fallen angels point the way to Hell,
The Belly of the Beast, the Hogs of Earth,
The Porpoises of Gehenna. I took a knife
A crewman sharpened on his whetting stone
And I myself opened the chattering chest.
Like a heifer, red and perfect, it suffered God
At sea! High priest of the Covenant Renewed,
I felt nothing. My congregation felt
Nothing but the sharpening of steel on stone,
The fear of promises forgotten, lost.
Im afraid Gods changing his great Mind again.
And the blades held up to Isaacs chest, and nothing
Arcs into the scene to tell me NO,
Gods razor shaving history right off
The farm while the Kingdom folds and turns away.