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Begin with a face, this casting pool set in bone,

——-where the other faces graze the surface


and slide, and who remembers what it was to begin,

——-who back then, if anyone, we were.


Always the shroud of a stranger across the chill

——-of the looking glass, and I am looking more


and more like my father and know I never get there.

——-The face on television says, we should open


our borders to Christians only, and somewhere a lonely man

——-says, yes, I feel that way. And one flame


flows into another, and who can tell them apart.

——-Who has not filled the empty holy landscape


of the margins. Everywhere the smoke of cities

——-and exclusionary spaces, where if you knock


the bodies on video feeds they sound like glass.

——-What a sound bite needs is a larger story with small


and smaller pieces, a girl, say, who stares

——-into the camera before the pan and fade,


though we know she is out there, the face among faces,

——-the Eucharist of imagined life.






Let me begin again. Time is priceless,

——-and we are always in the middle


of some covert conflict somewhere, caught

——-in the river of thousands pouring into thousands,


gathering in the makeshift city of widows

——-and tents, and there are limits to a body,


a nation, a sea. There are rivers drawn as mirages are

——-across the names of other waters,


and what is the use of words and images that come

——-so far and no farther, of the protest


song and broken camera abandoned in the sand.

——-Whose grains are these in the storm


blown back across our footsteps,

——-where the new planes carry their payload,


undetected, and have no people in them.

——-The words Christian or fire or covert conflict


have no people either, only jaws

——-to consume the bread of imagined life.


And as we talk, the body of us, in us, divides—

——-it must—longing to be whole.






Long ago they cut my father’s body open to accept

——-the harvest of a stranger’s heart.


When he woke, the hospital room smelled of chrome

——-and disinfectant, and he thought,


surely this is paradise, and his palpitations

——-spiked. Somewhere there is a flashlight


in the tunnel of your chest, a voice that cries,

——-who’s there, and no one answers. In time,


it says less and less, camouflaged in fibers;

——-the beam dims; words go deaf; the gape


of the ribcage swallows the Eucharist

——-in silence. Who is left to say where the stranger


draws its boundaries. Vein after vein

——-nets the vital muscle, and even the blood


of the incision is, as they say, connective tissue.

——-The bruise shade of the liver,


the spleen, the thyroid that is an outpost of the brain,

——-they are all braided like strangers


at the foot of a tower on fire. Like anger

——-flowing into anger and who can tell them apart.







America has no face. Or none I know. Let me begin again.

——-It is neither driver nor the mother


on the bus who pulls the string, not the chime,

——-not the echo, never the house


particular with debt and pills and bad news

——-from Ferguson or Beirut or some such holy land,


and the candidate who would wear our features says,

I open my heart, but homes are homes,


and I turn on him and lock my door behind me.

——-A Christian nation has no Christ,


and Christ no nation. Or none I know. I am looking

——-for a better song. I cast my vote


into the water to watch it slice across the larger picture.

——-One nation under God, a child says.


Beneath her hand, the anonymity of the personal,

——-the vital muscle, the fist, the first


to fear, the last to explain. Lord of the body,

——-peerless, eyeless, compelled.


I search the names on the ballot for the nameless.

——-I make my pledge.






To judge another’s words by what we know about the speaker

——-is to know neither speaker nor word.


So says a schoolbook a boy finds boring

——-and then he gets a beating from two strangers,


and as he hangs by his hair in the grasp of one,

——-he says nothing, he is losing faith in words,


he goes home and, once again, nothing, and over dinner,

——-nothing, and night after night, he lies


awake, and nothing comes. I am looking for a better song,

——-the kind that moves across the borders


in the old language. Or wades against the water

——-beneath the guns of the lookout, and what remains is


the vast unfathomed reaches of a sky. I am sorry

——-for everything I did and did not do,


I told my father in the end, and he was confused.

——-I still see that face among the many he wore,


buried in a music I could not hear, and I needed

——-my own to hear it. It felt enormous, this tune, and I


was small and smaller, and he was crossing over,

——-and he looked at me, my grief, as if it were a stranger.







In the song of the Eucharist of imagined life,

——-a girl stares into the camera, and the liquidation


of eyes and money spills from the anonymity

——-of the personal into the great collection plate.


Protesters take their guitars to the river, and one

——-tune flows into another, and whatever music does


and does not do, the girl who sings feels small and smaller,

——-and who are we to know. Somewhere


a theorist is writing a paper and feels it too: the longing

——-for greater detail, larger scope. Somewhere


a man eats the bread and feels absolved and little

——-changes or all things small and who are we to know.


Begin with a face. Yours or another’s. Little changes

——-gather downstream, beneath the eyes, and they have seen it,


the power of a song, how it just might pull a body through

——-the mirror, out some painful story or door,


into another. The refugees’ song carries something

——-of language over the river, and the river closes behind them


like a wound. It forgets. And in the song you hear it

——-running. And sometimes in their eyes, you see.

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