I usually let poems speak for themselves, but it’s been suggested I explain that this was written a few months ago, when I learned my father was dying of cancer. Cancer is perhaps more of a mystery than the doctors imagine — in the final analysis, a disease of the spirit. The parallel is drawn best by Aldous Huxley, who observes that as the body’s organs assert their “partial self­hood in a kind of declaration of independence from the organism as a whole . . . in exactly the same way the human individual asserts his own partial selfhood and his separateness from his neighbors, from Nature, and from God — with disastrous consequences . . .” The poem is also about love, no less terrifying and profound a mystery, the lies of poets notwithstanding.


5 - Drawing - Safransky


the flower
blooms in him,
becomes the sum
of him.
cell to cell,
the mean bouquet
is passed.
is satisfied.

am his “flesh and blood,”
his resurrection,
his earthly gamble.
is satisfied in me.
My flesh dances
to another cellular song,
the oldest cellular longing:
me for her,
her for me.

love is a dying, too,
or it is nothing.


cell to cell,
with malignant assertion,
the rude message
is whispered.
flesh stirs.
is a fire in the blood:

the yearning of parts
to be whole,
a madness of multiplication.
the Law
is refused.
the war
for an empty throne
rages within.


keep us from the communication.

amidst the rocks,
chosen carefully,
for the grave,
or with a lover’s
they are never
more than true,
and truth
is not enough:
a stain
upon the silence,
a necessary arrangement,
they are always
the right thing
to say