EXCERPT FROM THE SMALL WORDS IN MY BODY
THE REMARKABLE CHEAPNESS OF BLOOD
Weary of that colour,
of these words sifted onto paper,
worried over like fine gold dust.
This is the last.
Then I graduate from these bitter stories.
Long ago I left you sleeping in a hallway,
a dismantled scarecrow in an empty house,
your face oddly pale, bloodless as a puppet's.
But I remember the living coil of colour
snaking up and out of you.
A good man you were,
gave blood twice a year.
The nurse's hair slid like egg yolk
from her white cap.
There's nothing more generous
than donating, she said while you wrung
the rag of your arm into the needles
Who did you save by bleeding yourself?
The living things always needed gutting,
your own body, even mine.
Love was the red lesson once,
then again and again,
pain I learned to sing
with my eyes closed.
Every year skinned deer
hung like blankets from the rafters.
Behind their erased skins,
maps shone blue and red,
river after river, whole countries
of blood to move through.
Here, you said, put your hand here
And flesh like marble
warmed by sunlight
licked my fingers.
Oh, to abandon every simple cleanness
to my lessons.
Unable to believe in stories
or the heaven of animals:
the summer of shooting the dog
was a grand season of study.
One silver and black shot.
Three ragged yelps across the green air.
And a silence slammed together
like two rocks in a boy's hands.
It is still here, dead bolted over my head.
A good man though.
You owned a strange honesty.
No sin in showing me mousetraps,
dead rabbits, torn-winged birds, etc.
You taught me the one truth you understood:
the remarkable cheapness of all blood,
even my own.
Now I should cry thank you.
I should be glad.
WHAT I DIDN'T GET IN CHURCH
Simple, what you're looking for:
a cheap skull so close you can't see it,
so close your eyes blur and you close them.
You need a hard double trail of arms
leading to a plain of skin,
a man's back.
You want muscle in his chest
and above his collarbones,
warm flesh to breathe life into your hands.
It's been done before with clay.
You want to beg the innocent men passing
in the street for this.
They wear chiselled faces
and suits that equal three months' rent.
At night"reading your first book, you think: Is it possible?
Was I forgotten?
Why didn't I get a rib?
Simple, finding it,
simple as rain on a cat's skeleton,
these touches that bleach sinew to white thread.
You find the hands and the arms
and the long strong torso
with your eyes closed.
The breath from the buried lungs
touches your tongue.
But you need the bones underneath.
Nobody's willing to give those up.
They pretend they're asleep if you mention it.
Or, like Adam in the original edition, they say,
What do you mean, one of my ribs?
In the morning, if you stay, they call you crazy
and ask if you talk in your sleep.
I study all the magic.
I listen to Gregorian chants.
I think of Job, who said
I do repent in dust and ashes
and make a retraction.
I take back the silence I gave you.
I tear my clothes and fast.
Even black spells, I read them
upside-down, every pagan word.
In the dark, inside a red star,
I turn three times and catch wind-streams
in my hair, kill a white cat.
Honey and pig's blood,
rabbit's teeth and shavings of tin.
How shall I conjure you back to life?
You lived alone with your back to life,
danced alone in a place
I search for even now.
I go outside of my mind
with a scrap of your clothes
in my hand, a ravelling talisman.
I call and call. What if I get lost out here,
cannot find my way back in?
Isn't that what happens?
If I had your bones in a bag,
Then I would know you are dead.
That rattle beside me would be a song.
I wish I had to carry your bones
wherever I went.
If I had to dig your grave,
Then I would believe you are dead.
I could lick the dirt from my fingers
or toss it on your head.
A grave is a hole in the heart.
It can only mean one thing.
I want to dig that hole.
The ancient tribes ate their dying
to keep them alive.
It has worked well for Christ.
I will try it. I will try anything.
Where is your body?
Where are you?