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Poetry

I want to be like a church,
but I’m my father’s barn.

Emptying my mind to the August lawn

storm windows, burnt
and mothen things, baling wire

I found the pump organ
I disassembled and left

under a plastic tablecloth
like someone I’d opened up
only to abandon mid-surgery.

She tried to teach me to free

the casement and vox
humana to extract and label
each counterfeit tusk,
how to hunt between mute
and reed for what’s killed
the singing within her.

Lily pollen on the chalice veil,
a shiv lodged in a beast’s
verdigris throat, I imagined
I could hear the spirit fleeing.

I tried to hide inside
the breathing void
of my childhood church
organ, inside myself.
I believed if I could remain still
in the machine’s emptiness of song,
the hymnals’ damp, the mineral
and tempera of Christ’s raised hand

that she might place her hands
on my guilt—like this, she’d said
like this
on the keys—her little finger

stretched toward time’s black key
shaping a chord
I mustn’t name, she said,
she said would deafen me

out of wherever
you’ve been hiding, waiting
for her,
anyone, or the earth
to hurry up and die

reeling in suburb, in night fields
among all I can’t convince myself
to haul away with the blood-

stained cots, a hollow carousel
horse with hooves
of old rain, wheels for a baby carriage

or even name.

Of course I never repaired the thing.
Terrified at the sound it isn’t making.


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

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