It is hard to be misunderstood.
And how many of us get vindication
after a century or so?
I mistook the little bloodsucker
for a wad of gauze as it whirled
from the sailor’s spliced thumb.
It became an iridescent helix,
a liquid amber’s leaf
dangling through a day-long
spring and fall and spring,
Have you ever taken God’s name
in vain? Forgotten all your Latin
but opiate and parasite, the Greek
altered to “God eats at our table”?
The sailor calls his savior Fat Albert.
“There you go,” he soothes. “C’mon.”
Fix my heart, fix me all over, fix everything
around me. What carries us forward,
when I enter the room,
is the blankness—the sheets,
the walls, the page.
Language itself is prophylactic.
It avails us, suspends the hours
for us, inscribes our intentions,
seams the ordinary, provides
for the whiting in which, in this case,
the sailor and I can make our poem.
His poem is about wholeness and joy.
Mine is about the illusion of linear
progress, about Albert spinning
his symbiotic segments as he waits
in his salty pyx, both host and communicant,
the three of us chanting the same poem.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.