in 1994, for Carol
A river of blood runs under the bridge of the rib cage.
I have come home from work with a cracked tooth
the pain of it like a soft flickering of lightning.
See the new moon hung in frost broken limbs of our maple tree.
I want to lay my face against that moon, calling, “Carol, Carol…”
A light coming on gradually inside this leather box
I call myself.
I am a working man behind on his payments.
Loans taken out in another life eat my liver like a crow.
I can’t afford these words I am saying.
Can’t afford the assurance of men who walk in straight lines
or of those who follow their own desires
toward unimagined pleasure or pain.
You tell me the way to heal is
first find the wound.
Then go to it tenderly as you would a woman.
Stay with her, giving only what you are to what you are.
Nothing stays the same, you say.
Even pain will finally move toward itself.
When self meets self, there is an end
But I say, let the God of children draw his sword across my throat!
Let all words bleed away.
I hold up empty hands asking you to make them
To strangers and to moths around the open fire of light bulbs
my common heart is opening.
In every rounded corner of the world there is a laughter
I can hear,
a joy I share with falling leaves and sparrows.
Inside his prison cell, the condemned man is awake,
overcome with joy.
His floor is worn smooth with dancing.
The sand bags packed around his eyes are there to stop the river overflowing.
Can you hear church bells ringing in the palms of his hands?
There is happy static jumping inside the blood.
Across his rib cage, waving pastures, fireflies humming!
The pain that comes with love is taken down into the body,
locked in cells designed to open.
That pain is free to go now.
Born naked into fire, that pain, is forgotten!
The pain of Earth confined in solitary space,
all that is over now!
From here I see a billion suns clustered in your crown.
Some like to take the shape of planetary nebulae falling past the world
as flaming dust.
I like to follow the blood, returning to the heart.
Every moment I am kneeling with an ear against my prison wall
and the beating heart I listen for is yours.
There was a wound
green as Gulf water with phosphorus coiling and uncoiling
on the surfaces of waves.
Thirty-seven years I heard its red mouth chanting my name
as a curse.
You were walking the river
the full moon unmoving in its current
when I saw your voice taking shape as rain.
When a woman is in love, her body is a river.
Her scent is taken up as breath into magnolia trees.
Radha is in love with Krishna.
From a hundred miles away she feels
his right eye open.
The body starts falling away
begins the long process of leaving me behind,
a wife happier alone.
Everything my eyes see will die.
Everything my hands take hold of will be torn from them.
Tomorrow the world will say, “Get out.”
Still I am carried into the valley between Carol’s breasts
where a salty stream of sweat is washing.
I wade in that water to the dripping cave between her thighs.
A sincere opening leads inward to the fire that eats my body as food.
I am happy here, all bones now
one flake of ash smeared on my throat as ornament.
The sun is bleeding in the thorn tree.
Golden oriole, finches in my neighbor’s yard eat berries
red as menstrual blood.
Remembering your voice that is always like startled water, I drink the quiet
of this room.