Revealing the Spine
Coeur D'Alene: I once told him it was a corruption of
heart of a lion. He liked that.
I later found out it meant
heart of an ice-pick. He liked that better.
They will keep asking for the skin.
That is all they want, sweat on lean muscles
dark and heavy hair
high and fine cheekbones
and riding, always riding
tireless gleaming ponies.
This is love as transaction, a one-way
profit venture: somewhere in this peeling
away, at the exact moment
bone shows through parted flesh,
when that blood exclaims itself in flowing ribbons,
they lose interest as they always lose interest.
You guys always look better on TV.
And she turns to me and says—why is it
that every time he opens his mouth
everyone else closes theirs? Do they think each new word
might make the next new line of the latest
great poem? Are they even listening?
Or taking the trowel to clay
moving bits of dirt and dust
with the surgical sweep of a horse-hair brush against bone,
now exposed to wind and rain and sun again.
Your remains, gathered and warehoused for future
You were drunk that night
slurring magic words you might never speak again
might never remember, and like the apocryphal finite beats
in the lifetime of a heart, you may have loosed a poem or two,
a chapbook or folio into the ether of that autumn night.
You sloppy bastard, who I love with a ferocity
that can only be balanced with quiet rage.
Snoring, passed out on the floor below our bed
in that small dorm room, clothes on and covered only
with our care and feeding of your dreams,
we reached out and tweaked your head for fun—
how I wanted to fuck, and torment you later
with a retelling of the fun we had against your oblivion,
but she just smiled and said, go to sleep.
And I dreamed it was you fucking every man and woman
on the face of the earth—you had such love to give
and an ego to match, you sloppy saint.
What's it like to be the solitary member
of your own lost tribe?
The spine: if this were an anatomy lesson
at a crime scene investigation
spine might pass for spirit—
Great spirit, August spirit, Take-Your-Pick Spirit
or whatever distant word you might find
to exile this poet, to reify his breath
a harmless statue exalted on a pedestal
otherwise known as a barstool.
And this spirit, we might just spit on ourselves
in admiring its proud and stern and noble nature,
but we'd all secretly know that we never
really did want to know.
To the intellectual guerilla, the seething pacifist
swinging a pickaxe against buried history;
To the man who learned to drown in the desert
through keen observation, the heads going down, one-by-one
all around him, the names of schoolmates, cousins, and enemies—
Lester and Seymour and the fat red-headed BIA kid who everyone
beat the shit out of for sport and historical retribution;
To the man who spreads fire with the kindling of burning houses
and the hot vapor of exploding trailers; and finally, the man who knows
the words on a page mean never having to say please, thank you, or even I'm sorry,
even as they search for all of these things.
Three times as incantation, three times I click
my heels dreaming myself back towards home.
Am I exiled? Has my divorce been finalized
with you as well? As if one weren't bad enough.)
The spine, each vertebrate at a time,
move your lips
we are still here listening
reaching out to touch your head
while you sleep.
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