Thursday, February 26, 2009

Exercise 8

of Conflagration:

Catherine O’Leary’s Cow leaves the lamp unkicked and it
Bottles three days in October and the streets of the city
Never change. There is no second star.

Wooden boardwalks line the lake,
of a town with smaller shoulders.
The slaughterhouses and criminals
Lack a grandeur, the knot of railroads
Easy to unravel

And on a gravel street that divides two counties,
the crumbling house I dream in is never built

(unbuild it now, strip siding down to the mirror
reflection of insulation board, to wooden frame
and cement-block foundations,

the wood unburning in the fire that now is not
planks inchworm back to trees)

there is no hollow woodgrain door to stand before,
with flashlight in hand
there is no regret
no bluebeard refrain in my head
of every door save this one
behind which all my terror and my sorrow flow
no imagined woodsman’s axe
to swing, and split his hairy belly throat to crotch
and release the clotted ghosts
I have stuffed this scarecrow with

my sisters do not stop here,
do not wear their ages
like borrowed clothes on little girls

and I, when we meet, have no wager
against your sorrow, cannot understand
your tattooed tear, your graveyard arms

can never match your hunger, or know
the way a city is rebuilt from ruin
so we part strangers in a smaller country

I have unspooled enough, let time come as it must
Let Pegleg Sullivan steal the milk,
Let the stars fall
If it ends in your kiss

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