As I tackled our parsley patch this morning,
I was trying to parse your joke,
my dear, about the shadowy walls of the rectory
and the wayward altar boy that seemed to have hinged,
I’ve determined, on the archaic root of ‘minus’
that lurks in ‘minister’; as I tried to nail
back our hedge of peonies; as I tried to extract that rogue patch of mint
crowding out our thin rows of bok choy;
when something more sinister woke
in me I still can’t nudge. Like a bit of bok choy
from a molar. Like those papery chutes
of purple that insisted each morning
on blurring out the iron handrail
of the rectory steps and the rectory door and shutters.
In the arid West where all water’s theft, I plant not
neither do I reap, harm concretized into bee-brooch
a man pins to my breast drawing blood, apres-fuck
stigmata that cost him more than I make in a month.
Pollen from tasteless gardens slams my throat shut.
Remember the woman so allergic to ink she’d don
latex gloves before touching paper, words given
their true danger, passed body by body down the table?
Once there was latex between flesh and world
but then I got my IUD and hosanna and now nada
separates skin and sinister, flesh and buzz. I spend
my nights under something, sure, but no illusion.
Dirt-kneed, Illusion plants flowers across town.
Curtis was strung out on some combination of Jaeger
and wild shrooms, his distraught voice growing vaguer
by a half-lit, pale-pink taper poised by sand in a scallop shell.
That bears repeating: by a half-lit taper in a scallop shell
that itself seemed still half-buried in the sand. I mean
the light, like his voice, was muffled, as he tried, once again,
to clarify the double- or triple-meaning behind his matching indigo
wasps, matching like bookends, inked
to either wrist. These were his wasp tattoos. Matching like bookends,
or better yet, brooches, each with a delicate point (read: pins)
poking from its back; strung out, yet again, on some lack of food.
These were his latter days when, in lieu of a belt, he used a boot-
lace to double- or triple-cinch his jeans to gather up the slack,
and it was clear, even if we missed the point, there was no turning back
now. From his wanting to rush the point home. The double-
or triple-points, as it were, in which his eyelids flitted and spelled out trouble.
August, another feast, another wasp
gobsmacked by peonies and the humans
puzzling out how to bless themselves.
Youth WAS candles stuck in shit,
wasn’t it? Years since I passed that bottle
with its stag’s head around the room
while friends screwed on the couch
in full view. We careen, don’t we, we
careen and careen until suddenly
intention shows up and we’re trouble-
shooting things like: If I start wearing
brooches, can I matron as sexily as I
spinster? Let’s be honest: it always
tasted like medicine. Lady Chatterley,
glad sodomite, had herself a hunting-
master, skin-adroit and gamey. I say
the pastoral’s for suckers who’ve never
touched wildness. My people came
to wilderness because they believed
the Latter Days were upon us, and I’m
fine with that; I’m just trying to parse
the right measure of saved to wanton
and want to know: were the wasps
burrowing in, or burrowing out?
Who was meister, boy or insect?
(for Timothy Liu)
Skinny boy in the cage
(on Molly?) is a rage
of TNT, a mad
stick of dynamite, glad
sodomite for dollars,
giving glory a bad
rap. Look how the mirrors
replicate him, furious
shavings of porcelain
in a DNA chain
of finger-printed glass.
We know how songs like this
end. On drink. Drink and uppers.
With nostril scabs from poppers.
So the kid who wrote in three languages
opened for the famous lady who told
the audience she earns a dollar per
book, urging us to buy multiples. I swear
he was sober when he read, up there
fearless and godly at sixteen. Relapse
as succour: the way I have my whole life
found sanctuary in the bodies of men
though I know burning worlds when I
feel them. The joke was about holes,
right, as avenues to glory? It always
has been. Someday the kid may graduate
all the way from altar- to cage-boy but
for now he’s out trading beauty for
heroin in whatever rough alley, kneeling
in weeds, trusting implicitly in folly. Which
is the greater currency, word or body?
You and I will get nothing for these words,
love, but how dearly the cock has cost us.