Under the crucifix,
Boniface crushes carmine lips over mine,
Flash floods of white heat and predatory doves.
Spiders go crisp.
Wells boil empty.
Triumphant doveshadows stripe my saltflat sternum.
Snowy Maccabees pitch into flame
Tiny, fisting criminals in red, skin bags.
Nuns with praying hands mount the bleached horizon:
Mesmerized rats up a stretched wire.
Upon an alkali lakebed,
Under the flaming eggeye of Boniface,
A brokenspined reptile casts about
For a hole.
Boniface is arachnophobia. Sentimental premise spreading its winter. Its epigramania over nations. Wax saint. Marble vampire. Boniface is lye. Veins banded at groin and flightless bats. Still life where there was fruit. His moon-eyed kindness is sugar for the damned. Ants in whitewash, his faithful drown in a world that looks like a real world. Brother Peter raises his arms above the altar–but it is the blank light of Vector Boniface that streams down. At night, to the scratch of brushes on stairs, how the agents of subtraction gallop up and down the soul under the crosses and the hanging trees of Boniface!
Boniface is a foundry in whose light a woman with skin dried like carp tilts a tobacco tin, urging sap off the fingers, whipping, scooping into her apron, adding pulverized horse manure. Between teeth, past a wedged crucifix, intrudes her spoon.
Madonna with Leaves
Glacial Mona Lisa of Planets–
Self-inseminating desert heart–
One more broach blooms
In the current of a song of lass,
In frail violet of knowledge and relief.
A coin rings.
A watchman jingles change to his trousers.
Begging hands mount lakes of zinc and steel.
An anemone swells, aspiring to be sea.
Rewind sorry hours.
Cracking captives from sealed caskets.
“Wands” from The House of Violence
I do not belong here! I am of the hard-built. These days have no teeth! My father tore stumps from the ground with oxen, dammed the stream, and broke the ground. He broke bad horses. He seized pride from the dirt and owned it in iron hands.
I too, held a thing. Shut your mouth, Ma. Can I drink and work and fuck with a blind kitten in my hand? I squeezed, and delicate bones popped in my grip. I smelled it rotting. Unspeakable steam brewed in my gut and fumed out my nostrils. I had to concentrate to walk or speak. When the stench faded, I was sagging, caving in over empty space. But I shored up the roof with sections of railroad track and made a forge of the chasm. I built myself with spikes and nails and plow shovels and hay hooks and crowbars!
Today, I can only flee down lightshafts between barns and windmills. I paddle like a swimming frog above aphid-plump nurses back to an amber belly between blue knees and elbows of mountains.
My nostrils blow steam against her cheek.
Pelvic boneclenching fleshclutch. Honeyed fringe of rotting violets—
She gasps, Wait a little longer.
But they keep chasing me into the dreamditches between worlds! Hollyhocks flashing badges above stone walls. Purpleblossomclusters like hundreds of hungry trumpets. Sweet peas like furious, hooded schoolmarms. An old man wants nothing so much as to wire shut these packages of dust and petals. To muzzle history before she dribbles petals and blood all across the silence.
I plead with them! Lug me to the creek! Dump me from putrid air! Black-gloved hands beckon me; a voice lures me to a quieter room. When I’m washed white, and the stench of soft, dead things no longer clings, I swear, I’ll welcome you with arms wider than Christ’s! Let me embrace you, clement flowers, in the amnesic shade
Leather’s stiff. Breast collar. Offwithaglove. Buckle’s soo cold. There. How’s the foot, Black? Fuck. Don’t be like that. You wanna visit them girl horses?
Horizon’s glowing. I’m hurrying, Doc, goddammit.
Gray breath spilling back over harness.
Root of tail arching.
Chimney smoke frozen on fog.
Sun on hills. Swamping painful light. Hiding and bursting behind cottonwoods.
Tin face glazed glaring.
Barn eve fanging first light.
Reins, hands, ache.
Wheels over pebbles. Ironrattle.
Blinding meringue bobbing on plowed fields.
Drunken zigzag of blazelost creekwillows.
Creamsmooth woodpile. Unmelted snow on roof, chimney.
Snow squeaking dry under boots. Glove reaching. Gate latch bristling—
Finish your coffee, Steve. It’s time to go to breakfast.
Long S snaking out at me . . ..
Chickenplump ass wagging between magic doors.
Hum of a waiting bus. Smooth, flat, and dull, it tows me down where I—ironbuilt—do not belong. Flies leap from leaf to leaf, scrubbing feet and creeping up my shoes and pantlegs. Again, I gather strength. I aim my body like a diver. I launch right over flower pots, brushing through leaves wrinkled like old skin.
For a minute, the hills are tarped in gold muslin. Clods give and pull at my heels. I dip into a pool of cold, willow-bark air. I jump at a taprattling, mechanical snake.
Over the field jangles a gigantic, gleaming stand draped with cords and a bag of fluid. I dodge to one side—but a woman like a potato sack with purple-splotched arms bears down upon me. Her jowly, red-veined face is tilted! Her eyes are manholes to bleached sky! Just before she crushes me, her chair vaults upward. Tires spin overhead.
Edges singed and nibbled to saw blades.
Immense as bulls, flies snoring in corral.
Cords on barn wall like clear lariats.
Armpits steaming like valleys of festering lilies.
I’m reeled limp from my chair.
I’m borne up. Above the dementia wing now. Above the university’s red faces. Above pines and monuments of the graveyard.
Let the schoolchildren sing! Beneath our cottonwood, she smiles, flicking a branch like a conductor’s wand, tufts dancing at her feet . . ..
Do not sing—
I see . . .
A storm of hair and silk
Raging ’round a cloth bell
From which hands, graceful as mink,
Nuzzle a hot, flamenco sky—
Spit, gag, cough!
Like the old man
Who sips rum on his porch,
Watching a tremendous darkie
Whining deep in his animal chest
And writhing under boot heels
While a desperate butterfly
Works herself deeper
Into the spittoon’s black soul.
An iris shriveling on coals!
Every shrug and bending
Was heaven flexing against protocol . . ..
Against stone wall,
Mouth a perfect oval,
A boy raises night and galaxies in the bowl of his two hands.
Within orange-window eyes,
My grandfather’s portrait drops to floorboards;
I see a naked, music-box doll, snapped off at porcelain ankles.
The bible cover blackens and curls beneath her;
In faltering light, drumsticks descend.
The voice preserves one, trembling note . . ..