In a college dorm, in a prison, in a marriage
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Dancing to the heart’s cadence
of crescendo, diminuendo, lovers
glisten with sweat, whisper “I’m
dying,” fumble at their clothes.
Buttons slip through narrow holes,
zippers roar along their tracks
like downhill diesels, snaps
pop open like April seed pods.
The secret heard around the world?
Loneliness being torn asunder.
The only real art? Night after
night, waking or dreaming, shaking
with hot or cold, a dance of
fingertips and lips, teeth and
tongue, dazzling dexterities
of love, each of us blessed
with the vision to witness, only to believe.
Each and every soul’s vulnerable
as a butterfly in Ohio snow,
a virgin near a port of call.
Sight we lose to something
shameful, hearing drowns in
a scream. Touch and smell
succumb to death and distance.
Taste we smother in too much
of any good thing or bad.
The sixth? Balance, toppled
by a drop too much will, wind,
wine, one too many pleasures
of the first five.
Resurrection man, father
of the race and genocide,
puppeteer playing God,
you’re an empty gesture,
open hand a blessing, fist
a curse. As powerful
nearly as the one who
waits with finger on button
poised to end it all
with the biggest bang.
Impossible as the needle
through the camel’s eye,
love born dying at your feet.
The sentence to fit
such crime? As part of
your passion, to endure
whenever alone desire’s
shivering frictions until
you’re worn out, to bear
an unbearable weight,
symbol of humanity as you
stumble down streets
thronged with lovers fit
for one another, those who
didn’t fail, moving to death.
. . . and whatsoever Adam called every living
creature, that was the name thereof.
We’re designated to travel
from a world where nothing needs
a name to this, where all things
cry out for it. Cleveland, Ohio.
Ascension of Our Lord Church.
Giovanni. John. Father.
Eastern Daylight Savings Time.
We’re made to describe the way
from darkness, silence
to here, to learn that,
sure as night defines the day,
to be means naming everything again.
Most of the townsfolk who clumped
each night around the convent wall
like leukocytes around an infection
and demanded that she be shut up for good,
most thought her possessed
of too little morning, too much night.
Daughter of a nun who had no alms
to give a handsome beggar
and no qualms about giving herself instead,
she was always known as mother’s
little girl, confusing give and take,
in and out, love and love.
Her pious smiles adorned the curses
each time some spirit slipped
between her lips to waltz and polka her
around the floor. She once was found
alone on her pallet in her cell
naked as Jesus in the manger,
eyes shut tight but smiling the smile
you don’t get from dreaming.
The sisters, turning their faces
to avoid the devotion and despair
wedded in her eyes, tried to make her
pure again with the fire of the scourge.
How such holiness must have hurt
isn’t recorded. After death
the embalmers read with trembling fingers
just below the left breast
the scarred letters in a child’s hand,
J E S U S. She’s patroness of those
pulled apart by gravity of earth and sky,
all who’re not themselves alone, emblem
of the darknesses that frame each day.