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
to burn

beyond the love that from beyond being
has come to us:

Christ’s ever unhearable
and thus always too bearable
scream.

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
                                                                                my insomnia

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
starlight.

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
(heavenly bell)

conjures me to the suddenly more tolerable hallways
of hell . . .
                              Lovely Leila,

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,

in,
             out—

not the mind in which I love
my wife

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
                                                                                     and imbibe
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,
                              we excelled.

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
wrested
               from grief?

What truce
               with truth
in bowing
down

not to the ground
of being
               but simply
to the ground?

Affliction flickers
distant
               now
like a structure
on fire.
               Love’s
reprieve
moves through me

like a breeze.

But antlike
               existence
crawls all over me Lord

and I cry out
if you call
               this vise
quiet
               a cry,
this riot
of needs and genes
an I.

Feelingly
               among the
bones
               and nerves
of sounds
I make my scathing
way.
               Failingly
in church
or in the parked
car
               before work
I try
               to pray.

What might it mean
to surrender
               to the wonder
nothing
               means?

Not to end
               with a little flourish
                              of earth.

Not to end

*               *               *

Love is the living heart of dread.

Love I love you unto the very edge of being

Dead

*               *               *

Something in us suffering touches,
teaches first to find

little coves in our loves: blank nothings
wherein we are what we always were

               —blank nothings—

but changed or rearranged
as atoms
               in the random
                              kingdom
                                             of things:

hand, we say, or eye, or hair,
as if to make ourselves—to stake ourselves—truly
there.

Knowing now not to move in time
we are moved
                              by tiger-striped tails
bloodfine fins

some natureless cerulean
one would say

thinking oneself
out of nature.

Something in us, suffering, touches,
torches,
                              so we may saunter
seeingly
through an altogether other

element,
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
the eensy
               green
                              almost
                                             unfish

more like the stars

when you close your eyes and whirl
open to the whirling

grains
so freed from things
                                             you fall
                                                            down
                                                                           laughing

at the havoc.

For me for a long time
not the minnows mattered

but the pattern after: miraculous
I didn’t think

to 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
suffering
                              touching
us

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
                                                            almost
                                             too green
                              too blue
               to stand.

And I held your hand.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 32 Number 8, on page 37
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