I am sending off my blood for the story of who I am.
I am only human after all.
And a stranger writes me back to tell me.
I knew a woman who touched herself incessantly
to remind her hands that she was there.
There were bruises all over that vanished long ago.
When she abandoned all her narratives at night,
all that was left was nerves.
Not enlightenment. Not the others in the room.
Not the long blackboard equation
wiped down to starless paradise below.
When a mind leaves a body, it leaves a body in the snow
and drifts deeper into refuge.
If you travel north far enough, you will find her.
Where the earth is not earth any more.
It is terrified sea and gleams with diamonds.
Every fear is a fear of nothing.
When my mother died, she left a drawer of calendars,
in every square,
her tiny script, angelic as a child
cold as light in a lonely office.
My pain, yours.
They keep telling us to leave.
Always another doctor to meet, a diagnosis
A deposition in the small melodic cursive
I never mastered.
The calendars, I burned them.
I told her that, as if she were there, inside the fire.
I gave them back.
Wherever there are bridges,
there will be flames to cross them.
Thank you, pain. I will never forget.
Wherever there is mercy, skin.
If angels were made of music, surely they would vanish
as a measure of their character.
They would leave their symmetries
the way words leave
a pyre of books.
Or gods who leave by candlelight
if angels were tinier, more afraid.
If they cut their robes to shreds
or poured their sacks of teeth
into shapes our bodies give them.
Mouths would empty and fill and empty
among the lions of the colonnades.
If they were us,
they would say, go back,
and call it progress.
When I lose my bearings, I find my body
as one of the bare necessities
that have a note
of loss in them.
Song that is always early,
a little late.
A little joy
as one of the essentials.
Bandage, tourniquet, disinfectant, song.
You never know.
To the woman with a knife in the bath,
the angel on the needle,
the friend who killed
bottle after bottle,
the song replies,
You never know.
Flowers for the tomb, flowers for the lyric soprano,
flowers for the parlor
with its portrait
I hate to leave and say so
that bear the shock of flowers every spring.
I hate the prayers
a tongue foreign to the flesh
they pray for,
our mouths stuffed with flowers.
He is with his god,
says the priest about a friend
who had no god.
Dust blossoms and falls,
hours, months, years, it falls,
and never quite falls down.
When a flower fades, it bows.
Over earth, we say, meaning one
small portion, bound
One scent behind the petals as they fall,
one snow path
of the bridal gown.