He rose again. His face was black and bruised. The underground famine had gnawed its gloss. Where I have been, you could not live to tell. First, his women returned, and then his friends. They reached to press their fingers to his scar. Do not touch me, he scolded crossly, cold as Christ. Instead, they stroked the air, feeling by degree for what had changed. But new moods bloomed from his skin and from his bristle. He spit upon the ground and then he cursed. He did not walk towards the light, he walked away. And the lock-jaw mouth of the grave stayed agape, misgiving. As if it did not know: Dead does not mean dead forever.
After a while, one starts thinking in that language, dreaming in that language, as well as speaking in that language, and the behavior becomes different. —J. J. Jameson
Wind cannot change the dark, late March, when the strip of soil along my fence goes soft, ready for seed. From morning sky, a promise of heaviness. Clouds curl like smoke, cigarettes you ask for the day they fly you, bound, to Dedham. So I plant orange flowers, and yellow, whose petals trap sunlight, beacons lining the walk from garage to house. In my dream, you tell me
you have one more thing to do before you can come back: prune trees before sap rises, you say, no pain, no ooze, the firs sleep
beyond memory. From my angle of repose, do I see a branch blown upright or a hawk at rest in his hunt, moon melting layers of gold on new grass? In an orange hard hat you swing the cherry picker. The bandit raccoon crosses a network of roofs yard to yard. In the alley, the grinder lops wood into sawdust. “As long as I go to heaven, that’s all what counts”—your answer to my fear of awakening
to my heart chained to a wall. Meanwhile, the storm comes slate-grey while monarchs weave among unbloomed sunflowers.
At the first cut the earth does not thank the blade. Is it rape then?—the bite of steel, its point incalculably harder than dirt, its mark the hiss of death, the metallic taste of sorrow. And what does the earth cry, its tangle of root a living shroud rent by force? Memory longs to preserve what has already grown. The furrow is wet with tears, brown heart exposed, underworld of worms and slugs prey to birds, dreamless of deep new roots, of shade: the palm tree of Deborah, towering crown of green.
The ravaging is not yet complete. Jeremiah’s voice rages against Yahweh’s violation, at first petulant and then violent in return. It has always been so. Sixty discs slice the remaining sod, merciless, efficient: vestiges of cover criss-crossed into oblivion. Blind stalks mourn the loss of the sun, overturned into darkness, food for the coming reign. There is a quiet loss, the peace of death— stillness in the wake of wrath.
The thunder god is always the god of heaven and of death. Rain and death both bring life, black earth signifying a bed, a womb for golden seeds dropped from the mouth of the god, for a cause not one’s own. Is there a more tender bliss than the sweet swelling, the burst seed? Tendril roots uncoil, the seedling unfurls— moon-pale shoots beneath green and gold. The seed takes possession, the violated earth sings, the rich strains reach heaven.
You’ve gone AWOL and only Jesus can bring you back, not this poem that I began with the lie that we can overhear your laughter, not hubris or tears and rain. You are an ocean who’s left the nest of earth I thought you’d promised not to. The sky who folded up your blue tent and took off.
What remained, they packed off to flame. Before the day we sat to make your legend in the church, I could almost feel your curious, dare- devil spirit peel itself from the wall of death like a cartoon character and bop out to explore. So tell me what you learned. Is it possible to breathe astral, heavenly air?
And tell me. Was it worth it?— all that sturm und drang you pitched against our brother Death who’d rather work in secret—swelling, hemorrhage, collision of blood cells, collusion over charts, snarled traffic of the body, roads under construction, accident, the rampage of doctors to prevent the clever kleptomaniac from winning as long as possible. He could only steal your body. Which I miss, it’s true, oh god, true. The screen door you banged every afternoon, now silent.