Psalm for the Rapture

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Farther away — much farther,

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high as a predator drone above the caution tape,
distant as a satellite from the chalk outline on the street,

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safe from the suck of the swamp,
its cottonmouths & mosquitoes,

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free from the burden of earth
& the deadly irredeemable stones,

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beyond the sting of conscience
& the discomfort of moral ambiguity,

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rapture me in the always-now of amnesia,
in the never-enough of consumption, rupture me,

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oh god oh god oh god oh god oh god.

David to Abishag

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

devil's bindweed

I was David, slayer of tens of thousands,
dancing half-naked before the Ark.
Power flowed through me: everyone saw
how the Lord gloried in his tool.

      Abigail, Michal, Ahinoam — where were they?
      Forgotten on their pillows of goats’ hair,
      like the graven image that slept in my bed
      on the night I staged my first
      tactical retreat.

Don’t look at me like that! Remember,
Jonathon was dead, whose love had been
more wonderful than the love of any woman.
The Lord had taken my seed
for his own: my sons would be his sons.

      But what does a virgin know about love?
      I danced, I circled back on myself
      like a serpent, honey-tongued.
      I fucked Bathsheba & had her husband killed.

A flash of anger in your eyes — good.
I hold nothing back; neither should you.
More than anything else,
El Shaddai loves openness.

      Ah, but Absalom, beautiful in outrage,
      broken at the bottom of a pit!
      What kind of arch is supported
      by a single pillar?

You have heard these stories a hundred times,
I know. They are all I have left.
I keep hoping somehow to set you aflame, poor girl,
forced to cuddle with this soft cold worm
your King.
__________

Abishag – see I Kings 1:1-4
dancing before the arkII Samuel 6:12-16
the graven image that slept in my bedI Samuel 19:11-17
more wonderful than the love of any womanII Samuel 1:25-26
the Lord had taken my seedII Samuel 7:12-16
BathshebaII Samuel 11
a single pillarII Samuel 18:17-18
For another take on the real David behind the layers of tradition, see Baruch Halpern, David’s Secret Demons: Messiah, Murderer, Traitor, King (Eerdmans, 2001)

Potosí­

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Look, the night doesn’t fall like a curtain
or rise from any ground. In fact,
it doesn’t move at all.
It’s still there, even in the heat of noon.

Ay, Carnival.
Fields of dog grass.

We pass through that black purse
like stones through a gizzard,
grinding against each other, a currency
no sooner earned than spent.
Our features fade, rubbed smooth.
Veins appear just under the skin.
Strands of silver.

Ay Carnival,
bald as a nickname.

Now more than ever, I am nothing you’d
care to save. But night still rattles
with the dreams of poor Indians,
in their hats & shawls like broody hens
unwilling to abandon the egg
that will never hatch.

Big overblown Carnival.

__________

Lines in italics are taken from Quechua folksongs collected by Jesíºs Lara and translated by Maria A. Proser and James Scully (Quechua Peoples Poetry, Curbstone Press, 1976).
For background on Potosí­, see here.

In the Mountains of the Lion

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

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Imagine having to go on with no way to touch.
Giving birth to the child of who knows which
stoned soldier, & never knowing the silky
feel of his skin, whether to caress
or to shove away, away.

I let him nurse to ease the swelling in my breasts.
I licked him like a cat — it was all the salt I could get.
Were they not terrible, those severed hands,
when they stood back up at last
& began to point?

Territory Folks

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Battle
Click on the photo for a larger image

After mother remarried, her new husband
shot the horse that had returned
with an empty saddle.

It hadn’t let anyone but me ride it since.
You couldn’t slam a door or fire a gun,
it would kick down the stalls.

We’d put it outside during thunderstorms.
I’d hear a frantic drumroll of hooves
circling the pasture,

& something heavy — the Sunday roast — scraping
across a table. I mean, the way it sounds
from underneath,

crouching among the chairs, hungry,
keeping a wary eye on those tooled
leather boots.

New York Skyline

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Forest
of glass stumps.
(He was an epiphyte.)

An over-crowded graveyard.
(Any damn stone will serve.)

Scraping not sky but smog.
(His dust taking root in a million lungs.)

Strange the sights
we have learned
to consider
inspiring.

__________

Prompted by the second photo in this post.

Slow

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

slug 1

Who cares what
the slow
guy thinks?
I watched a slug
gliding over a rock
on its single
foot: water
flowing uphill,
Aladdin’s carpet.
I like how,
during a yawn,
my head fills
with the roar of
its own surf.
So much better than
those hiccups
called anger, pride,
shame,
or the fever
with which
my poor sam
pee-body — as
the sparrows say —
tries to rid itself
of that virus
love.

slug 2

New departure

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

As a form of protest, I will stop writing in my own voice.

As a gesture toward reconciliation, I will begin writing in the voices of unnamed others.

beadface

The eyes are cowries; they smile in the shape of a frown.

I saw myself in the lorry’s rearview mirror. I looked farther away than I was, half swallowed in the dust storm.

Hold me, I said to the mask. Keep us together.