|Jan/Feb 2003 • Poetry|
How To Make An Agnostic A Martyr
First you match your moon to his sun
and all the shades of light between, but you forget
to ask the question (this is your sin).
When you remember, you beg him
for the clarity of repetition, pressing the point
with fingers curled like question marks
into his skin; but his doubt is reasonable,
so you pound fists into midnight soil instead.
Eventually, your palms assume the hue
of burnt offerings, as if you've buried something
there. You glance at a lit firmament, and ask God
not to drop a star on your head; then you dash under a slab
of stone—which is fitting—and beguile this man to lie
down and make gentle lamb sounds. Raking your nails
across his skull, you picture him shorn; but he just yawns
and wants to know what you mean by sacrifice.
You confess, It means to be alone; and you don't care
who witnesses you running after him—but God knows
it's not Isaac you've chased but the ram, and yes,
you must give him back.
Then (as if you are faithless) your teeth
hammer a nail to its bed—and you mourn.
When you swoop in: a blush-breasted dollop
shaken from the great paintbrush, I stop this
liquid dance, hold your breath under my skin, and stalk
your winged precision, record your existence
across the tips of my privacy fence.
For a moment I am less, just these eyes, watching
more: and you are
a delicious afterthought
spattered across sky. I can't afford to blink
if a single skipping lash
could render you superfluous.
When the Painter wipes the wet brush of us—
and he will clean our possibility—against the brim
of that deep jar and we ooze back in,
and another lid closes, and it will—every eye
and coffin, every jar—who will remember
an iron red speck, or two, in a universe of stardust?
Nazi Son Of A Bitch
Mother wept when she cut my curls
then caught them in ribbon
pressed as scraps into books.
Once, she caught me jumping
on her featherbed, flattened
under the weight of my enthusiasm.
She marched Father in
to inspect my boot prints, and said,
It is not his fault.
The next time I jumped,
the mattress bounced
back, left no shred of evidence.
Silent Mother smiled and pressed
creases like forgiveness
into Father's uniform.
He'd been to the factory
to order the fluff
that acquitted me: bundles
of freshly cut hair.