Tie the slumped stroke patient
upright in his chair and wheel him
to the tabernacle; nod with him
to the handclaps and whoops
as the psalms to the body are sung.
The maiden’s slim foot bewitches
the king; the king’s sword sings
in its scabbard. She loves him,
she loves him not; it’s already long-
settled, writ in stone, etched ages
ago into the bones’ birch bark.
Lord, is it all not beautiful?
Does the beetle not powder the log
and the skunk cabbage unravel
its lantern deep in the spring-
soaked bog? Are you not replete
in mosquito as you are in vireo
or palomino, the stallion we passed
trekking out of the Wallowas, who
cantered to the corner of his pasture
to meet us, shook his long, gilt mane
over the fence, and, when I reached up
elated to rub his velvet nose,
bit my hand?
The body you saw this morning
shucked off like a spring coat
while your eyes swiveled lidded
and your feet pattered and jerked;
the rose body you step daily out of
the shower in, the encumbrance,
albatross, cabinet, short-stay unit,
with legs like Paul Bunyan’s, trunk
like an ox’s, and hair springing ruthlessly
out of every conceivable crevice. Here
is a picture of you naked at Jemez Springs,
1996, clothes folded neatly on a boulder
at the pool’s lip, your raised hand only half
blocking the camera. Behind you is
the old hippie who droned on about
the minerals we hadn’t yet realized our
bodies craved. He took daily infusions
and could now crack nuts with his teeth.
When, at the Last Judgment, the soul
is reunited with the body, it won’t be
these creaky, high-mileage models we slip
back into, no. It will, Augustine argued,
be a body uncorrupted, perfected, all
of your lifelong grievances redressed.
And we will shuffle like supermodels
toward the throne, staring at our radiant
hands, listening to the terrible sorting,
the sudden crying out, the impeccable
pronunciation of each penetrating name.
After two days without food, the edges
of things sharpened, a trick I guessed
my eyes were playing, dividing the edible
ever more starkly from the in—. A rabbit,
hightailing, zigzagged broomstand to
blackberry, and something already tight
in me coiled tighter. And further, when
the long-lashed Appaloosa snuffed me
up and down at the fence, nosing through
my coat for an apple, I stood there empty-
handed, flap-armed, too weak to even say
or sing thanks. Happily, the swallows had
gathered for dusk to do it, their twittering
crosstalk swollen to a cacophonous din
as they dropped one by one from the high
wires to shear open-mouthed, cheered, over
the high, towheaded, wind-worked field.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.