for A.M. Fine
Molest the dead. Take from them their buried
honey. Envy them their past perfect
tense, their had done and hurried gone. Harry
them, for bars of iron cannot deter
their passing. Hate, heat, hoar cannot injure
their integument nor corrupt what worms
have gowned and mastered with their ferried van lines
of dispersal. Goader, flenser of squirming
flesh, we, the warm, the unstill living, speak
“dog,” bark the invisible as it shakes
the foundations of the house. Bush, speak.
Must I begin the conversation? I quake,
I listen, I brake fast, I bell the stray
to warn the lark away, then seize the day.
You, called rubbish in the public fracas
of the world, I would choir you with the thees
and thous of Quakers, rub gasoline, strike match,
for you are flame come to raze the world. Beneath
your heat, I am roiling in a cauldron.
I betray you and you send me doves.
Your Panza, I am confused. Send squall,
eternal cold, for I am storm and love
the lightning. Señor, you need more phlegmatic
friends. Three collops of hag venison
have put bitters in my stew. Meet me at
the well, or surely I will be in prison
when you get back. I await your reply,
a sign, the merest gesture to decry.
There is no truth in news, no news in truth.
Skoal, my liege. If I am drunk, you are
the bar. The peaches of San Gersole are couth
and sweet. I down these hours, bare
of cartilage, patient some quiet widening
of your breadth within me. Meddler, medlar,
I am that fruit that must rot to ripen,
rind browning on the branch until made
ready for your pluck, your coming. I stand
impeached. I love the flesh, its flush, its foison
under eager hands, the skin’s glissando—
and sex, how its truth lights up the dark, moistens
the arid desert in us, heaven
leavened or made hollow—by your leave.
In the twitching hours of dissolution,
there are some who travel on dark ice,
fetching, by their troth, delusion
to ferry them to safety. Wheel of Vice,
Lady Luck, is their fortune, whirling their
want. Their fervors adamant and obvious
with their single-pointed want to harrow
and be harrowed, they are flagrant in their must.
Who am I to judge them, brazen Jezebel
or belle of Jesus? (Up or down the funicular,
Venus is never done.) Levy your gabelle
on my tiny mind of salt. But when the wick
of night is spent, the bull cannot be trusted,
and the hotwife grows hotter for her lust.
There where the meadow has been razed
by fire, I have been razed. I beg you. I have
as yet no feeling: my life a little maze
of works, of bedlamite behaviors
gone up in flame. My argument with you?
I am living and wish to stay so. Then take
me as I am. Love all of me, you
who have drained my cupboards of their reds: steak,
wine, blood, and bid me cut off my hand
for I am thief and he who draws the knife
gets Isaac. Good enemy, molest what’s dead
inside me. Wrack, rend, mold me to new life,
but chide me gently, for I, the blasted,
abjure the blast, the silence after.
Every being wants ecstasy, that moment
when, no longer fearful of its own
divinity, the angel of the body
approaches, the tomb opened, the stone
loosened at last. Star-root, who are you?
I who have made a cottage industry
of adoring you in that beautiful young
man who died on the cross, seek you now in leaf
light, in deer scat, in the interstices
of things, where, in the coincidence
of opposites, you reside, waiting to seize
our attention out of all its indifferences.
Cadence I will call you for you are always
changing—I, an unbending prodigal.
I choir the Alexandria you are
leaving: your light as principle, the heart
as extra, our compass gimbaled in the dark.
If Armageddon is your way of parting,
I will miss the tintinnabulation
of your spurs. Indeed, I will miss myself
for aren’t you the deity who shuns
the lie of who I am, delves deeper, salves
the wounds I inflict? For aren’t you us,
or we each other? How we fondle
the grenade. We heart you, our scapegoat. Jesus
humble us for we cannot but offend
the vision we have failed or bring
ourselves to bear our final perishing.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.