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That’s how we can distinguish a man from a woman, or from ourselves: only in a moment
of embrace. Judgment on bodies has already passed, they say that we are like any
other, cock is a breast, balls another pair that swings like hands
of a clock. Our stories have no listener; our stories are like any other.
We misunderstand each other, our bodies the only proof of intimacy, a repetition
of bodies coming together as we move on top or under each other,
we fill each other with ourselves in the moment of embrace,
an imago stretching its wings out, two bodies connected by an embrace.
“Hush,” you say, “I love your body,” “I get hard only for you,” “I am yours only.”
You say that sex is another word for how we leave the body, or how, like the Whirling
Dervishes, we seek the eternal in the embrace, in the moment of unveiling
the white so much like a butterfly, or ourselves. You hold your cock, you release
come like a magician releasing the doves. They land on my stomach, they stay there
until they dry like scabs over wound.
“Love is another way to say how unoriginal we are,” or “You and I are separated
by a word, a mere word.” Love is a division, it is a barrier that makes us who we are,
another word for how repetition becomes the way we part from each other, over
and over again, love is another way of saying, Your face in this light is how I want to remember
you, a face only a few steps away from death, this is when I like you the best.
You call it Shoah, the unrepeatable. Here’s a picture: soldiers burning books,
another picture: soldiers dragging an old man who held the Torah as if it were
his child, or God. Let us move thirty years ahead: here’s a picture of students burning
books, another of students pushing an old man clutching the Classics.
The faces of these boys are so many years before any partings they can understand,
their bodies taut with how little years they have. Pictures are repeatable, so are events.
God loves innocence and children, but two are not the same.
I say that the Holocaust is an image of bodies ahead of all partings.
The souls have already forgotten the rib cages, the backbones that protrude like a broken
violin. A picture: bodies after bodies thrown into a ditch. The only thing
separating a man from a woman is by how their sacks are carelessly placed:
here is a man, his balls have shriveled down to the size of a large pea; there, a woman,
where her breasts once were, two broken pendulums that no longer tell time hang.
I want to say, the shaved heads tell all: holocaust is the debasement of bodies,
where bodies turn into grotesque universality. In this picture, a woman lies on top
of two men, their mouths open as if almost a kiss.
The proof is the body, not in words: you lie on your stomach, slowly rocking yourself
to sleep as if the bed is another body you can ease yourself into. I lie
next to you, my thighs slightly open like a window, or a door, anyone can look
in, even you. But we have stopped our movements already. In the early morning, words are bodies
heaped up high, each body imprinted with past, they are remembrance. But we have already turned
our eyes inward, we do not hear. Each come-cry hides in the cave of the mouth,
stays inside of us like doves in a magician’s pockets, waiting for the signal they’ve been
trained to recognize.
I don’t know why I love you.
I don’t know why you leave me
whenever I am faced with my own body.
In my loose clothes and walk, you say
“secret” and “muscle.” Outside the dumpsters
are lifted and emptied. I slide the white shirt
over my head. Last night I had
the coward dream again, the airport,
Santa Fe, gun shots echo off
the women’s bodies. I stand
in the line of men who have to watch.
We all love you to begin with.
Then something happens. We become
a mother who races down concrete steps
to cover our daughter, riding her bike
topless, with a plaid blanket. All these years
you have been my skin though I am afraid
to say sometimes I don’t love you at all.
Sometimes, it is a man I love.
In the beginning was the word and the word
knows us. We don’t always return the gesture.
This is not morning. There is a nastiness
slowing your shoes, something you shouldn’t step in.
It’s shattered beads, stomped flowers, vomit-
such stupid beauty,
beauty you can stick a manicured finger
into and through, beauty that doesn’t rely
on any sentence the sun chants, it’s whiskey
swelter blown scarlet.
Call this something else. Last night it had a name,
a name wedged between an organ’s teeth, a name
pumping a virgin unawares, a curse word.
Wail it, regardless.
Weak light, bleakly triumphant, will unveil scabs,
snippets of filth music, cars on collapsed veins.
The whole of gray doubt slithers on solemn skin.
Call her New Orleans.
Each day she wavers, not knowing how long she
can stomach the introduction of needles,
the brash, boozed warbling of bums with neon crowns,
She tries on her voice, which sounds like cigarettes,
pubic sweat, brown spittle lining a sax bell
the broken heel on a drag queen’s scarlet slings.
Your kind of singing.
Weirdly in love, you rhumba her edges, drink
fuming concoctions, lick your lukewarm breakfast
directly from her crust. Go on, admit it.
You are addicted
to her brick hips, the thick swerve she elicits,
the way she kisses you, her lies wide open.
She prefers alleys, crevices, basement floors.
Hell, let her woo you.
This kind of romance dims the worth of soldiers,
bends and breaks the back, sips manna from muscle,
tells you Leave your life. Pack your little suitcase,
flee what is rigid
and duly prescribed. Let her touch that raw space
between cock and calm, the place that scripts such jazz.
Let her pen letters addressed to your asking.
New Orleans, p-please. Don’t. Blue is the color
stunning your tongue. At least the city pretends
to remember to be listening.
She grins with glint tooth,
wiping your mind blind of the wife, the children.
the numb ritual of job and garden plot.
Gently, she leads you out into the darkness
and makes you drink rain.
since I’d forgotten for a moment where you are,
I search for you with hope in my bones.
of sun, the
roses. I want
to eat that
Through habit we drift suspended
somewhere between being lost
and being found.
…Why do tears come?
I believe I am happy
know what to do with it.
I’ll let it all slide down my face
and drop onto my tongue.
I sing the words:
How will I ever go back from here?
I had forgotten how to say yes. That’s the trick of heartbreak.
It makes you forget yes. The voices in my head were not kind,
so you took me to the woods to empty out.
My old shoulder was wired with pain, and there was a needle
in my hip, but we lay on a wide flat rock in the snow
as the intoxicated sun licked our faces with breathing light
like a yellow dog, simple in its joy, licking our chins and lips and necks
and a long wind came from over the mountaintop
and cooled our left sides, and the Sacramento River
wept through us like time, and spoke its liquid foolish syllables,
senseless, sensual, almost sentient, and I lay with my head
nested between your breasts and listened.
Time to climb, you said, and I felt snow-wing angelic as we snowshoed
above Castle Lake, leaving traces behind like snow rabbits
with webbed feet, silver squirrels, prints on the glass of the world,
a little evidence for angels to investigate after that death magic
resolves us to nothing again. I heard omens in the wind, psalms
in the bent warm sunlight that makes the snow mountains weep.
Something was coming, something foreign as joy, a clue
to how to live once you’re done with sorrow, a way of being
in being like a long breath exhaled, leaving a trace on the air
before it resolves again to air, the frozen lake, ice fishers waiting
for something great to rise, the mountaintop lifting
its white head in trance and saying its one good word: snow.
I was born in the gut of Blackness
from between my mother’s particular thighs
her waters broke upon blue-flowered linoleum
and turn to slush in the Harlem cold
10 PM on a full moon’s night
my head crested round as a clock
“You were so dark,” my mother said
“I thought you were a boy.”
The first time I touched my sister alive
I was sure the earth took note
but we were not new
false skin peeled off like gloves of fire
yoked flame I was
stripped to the tips of my fingers
her song written into my palms my nostrils my belly
in a language I was pleased to relearn.
No cold spirit ever strolled through my bones
on the corner of Amsterdam Avenue
no dog mistook me for a bench
nor a tree nor a bone
no lover envisioned my plump brown arms
as wings nor misnamed me condor
but I can recall without counting
canceling me out
like an unpleasant appointment
stamped in yellow red purple
except Black and choice
I cannot recall the words of my first poem
but I remember a promise
I made my pen
never to leave it
in somebody else’s blood.