I don’t want to be alive anymore.
I don’t want to be alive enough to want that.
One is not meant to turn on one’s creator
with ferocity expendable in only one way.
Or is that exactly how one is meant to turn
beyond the love that from beyond being
has come to us:
Christ’s ever unhearable
and thus always too bearable
In love and dread we learn to listen
for beloved dread
coming upon us like a frenzied rain
we watch through a window.
In pain we learn pain.
Sometimes amid the rancid moonlight and mindlice of
there gleams a scalpel blade
so clean with meaning
so shaped and sharpened to interstellar blue
that drawing it—in season due—
across my own throat
there comes not blood but an ancient answering
Once upon a time in a pleasingly modern slaughterhospice
with a view of sky-contempted skyscrapers
and Lake Michigan’s immaculate sewage
my inner skin was skinned mouth to bowels,
my soul—deadword, die to find it.
For self-pity there must remain a self.
Ah, but even shitting one’s self
one still finds one’s self hastening to hide it all
from the kind Ukrainian nearly-bearded night nurse.
Fentanyl patches patching my stalactite thighs
my diaphanous shoulders
the very air eating me
like a late leaf
that once I would have flourished
for a perishable lover
or lonelied like some catpiss poignancy
into a poem.
Dead brain, living will, little pills
entangling pain with adoration of it,
morphine machine whose little beep
conjures me to the suddenly more tolerable hallways
of hell . . .
so unsurgically curved,
disclosing as she leans to clean my lines
a bit of icelace undergarment like the very last trace
of a glacier.
The brain the brain the brain flickering electrically
in and out,
not the mind in which I love
whose tightwound nightmind conjures Christ in diapers,
for instance, filthy infant, or later,
in a mist of adolescent bad weather,
bored of wood, dogdead Judea, squawk-box God,
some restless absurdity of earth, she says,
through which the rest of heaven can come.
Once upon a time I walked through the chemical glamour
of a night refinery
sparking dangerously without and within
for beside me under her underclothes
undulated an incarnation
of creation’s finest failure:
moonskin to make a young man wince
coupled with stifling innocence.
Still, we managed.
And over the wrought-iron railing of the country club
to which neither of us could possibly belong,
in the moonskinned pool that seemed both to embody
her, we improved.
And later, out on a green (to be sixteen!)
when the starshower I thought was mine
was mining me for sweat, muscle, memory
to make its own death
shine unceasingly inside of me
even unto hell,
Can it be that her last name was really Key?
So much life in this poem
so much salvageable and saving love
but it is I fear I swear I tear open
what heart I have left
to keep it from being
and beating and bearing down upon me
* * *
What rest in faith
not to the ground
to the ground?
like a structure
moves through me
like a breeze.
crawls all over me Lord
and I cry out
if you call
of needs and genes
I make my scathing
or in the parked
What might it mean
to the wonder
Not to end
with a little flourish
Not to end
* * *
Love is the living heart of dread.
Love I love you unto the very edge of being
* * *
Something in us suffering touches,
teaches first to find
little coves in our loves: blank nothings
wherein we are what we always were
but changed or rearranged
in the random
hand, we say, or eye, or hair,
as if to make ourselves—to stake ourselves—truly
Knowing now not to move in time
we are moved
by tiger-striped tails
some natureless cerulean
one would say
out of nature.
Something in us, suffering, touches,
so we may saunter
through an altogether other
as once in the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago
I floated a moment
with my love and the two new lives
borne from us
who loved best
more like the stars
when you close your eyes and whirl
open to the whirling
so freed from things
at the havoc.
For me for a long time
not the minnows mattered
but the pattern after: miraculous
I didn’t think
all those mite-eyes and animate instants
answering at once to my need
and to nothing
as if my very nerves worked
in finally a saving sense.
Something in us touches
like the constellations
of kinetic quiet
that bound us beyond us
as right to the wall the girls pressed
their still-forming faces
through which the wild new schools flew
And I held your hand.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 32 Number 8, on page 37
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