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The purple plant of abstinence
grows in the murky shade

gnaws at the caterpillar
with its thorny teeth

and snarls at its mealy flesh
noli me tangere

as if to crawl along its spiny hands
the index finger stained with negatives

were death, the sour wash of corpses
circling down the winding drain

that rusty compass of our being
like the one I used in my geometry

and still the nurse insists you fill
the questionnaire up to the brim

and drink its bitterness
its litany of failure and disease

and on the last page
turn the other cheek

there you will leave your liver
limbs, an eyelid or a cornea

but save the heart, its ventricles
its bloody passions and its tricks

for me, in case one afternoon
I should desire it

—question not the need—
who does not tremble at

the heartlessness here
where we thrive and live?

Now, when the rhododendron
is in fuchsia bloom

and earlier than the season
fireflies are glistening among the trees

and from the darkness bullfrogs sound
their ancient throbbing from a distant pond

I linger in the moonlight and its rays
give substance to my shadow

and my body shape.


The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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