NO, NOT ONE

Other Songs, Poetry

Jesus said, “Do you see these stones? Very truly I tell you,
not one will be left upon the other, all will be thrown down,”
and then kept walking on. The disciples sighed. “Not one, Lord?
Not the mosaic which has you pegged as pelican, giving suck to
young with blood pecked from and plated on your chest? Not that
slab whose linens have been smoothed by hands of careful priests
to kiss like precious bedsheets? Not curls carved out from alabaster
bearing likeness of wool shoulders pressed by frightened members of
the fold into your calf? (Surely you remember them, and accounted
each to be renumbered here.) Not the dense earth quarried; hewn
in sweat, hard blows, and the tithings of a thousand silver plates
of grand intention passed from hand to hand while waiting to
receive you at your supper? Not glass bubbled from the heated
sea to dribble on the shore; gathered there, and shaped, raised
to strike your gesture in midair: the one you made nearly twirling
from the grave, save projectile angels scurrying for cover? Not stalls
and pews and arches carved from wood acquainted with the tree-tip
touch of dawn broken in by birdsong, now known as rote and chanted
verse, “the dawn from on high shall break upon us,” sung so often we
forgot it was a thing upon a time to sit beside you in chill forests, dark
for daybreak, by the river, waiting? Not pipes forged, like those larks
had been, to repeat a riff of notes when called? Not a tomb to cull and
air reverberating threads of flesh strung from painful, saddened bows
to cry to you: magnified by hollows, pressing lines to lonely ears; not
a low lain basin holding close the voice and veins collecting for the cup
you left behind? No, not one?” But by that point he was gone. He had
vanished in the crowd, somewhere past the queue for pastries at the
corner. Later, they would find him, as they always did, behind doors
at the day’s end, those opened when alone; and each would join him
on their own, shutting eyes inside the steady prayer he made, “your
kingdom come, your will be done… your kingdom come, your will be
done.” Rain in an electric box, the volume on a murmur. They dreamt
then of a world on fire; they imagined ruins. Yet morning came as it
ever had before: friends pinched at pain au chocolat from crinkled
bags and walked their dogs, and a woman on the corner asked for
bus fare. The paved earth, too far beneath the tips of buildings to
have seen the dawn arrive, did not take up the song of those
who woke to find death waiting.

WHAT MADE ME PURE

Other Songs, Poetry

He did, of course: but not, as some have said, as if I’d been delivered
in a bubble to my mother’s womb; as if I’d lived preserved upon a thin
and sanitary towel rolled out before me, the mud never oozing up between
my toes; as if I, myself, could not see it coming. I saw it clearly, and the
belief that it was coming for me required some suspension of others and
no small bit of laughter: I was young, and it took a while to realize what
it meant for him to so consistently choose the most haggard from among
us first for plans and play. I was far from perfect, and I would grow up
with a curiosity over why I might have been so privileged by him towards
a middle aged assumption that it had to do with my reclusive availability
(my youth spent frequently out of doors), towards what he finally told me
in death- which is my own little secret for now (it is linked, scandalously
enough, with aromatics). You would blush if I told you how many times we
actually had to try; I certainly did at the time. The first, among abundant
yards of lavender, began in attendance of the bridge beneath my ankle, which
I had not prior seen as a thing of special beauty in itself; then, there was the
current of his I fished out muddily from the river, my calves as solid stones
just to pull him up to where I needed him to be. There were times that began
as hands naturally might, holding shoulders clenched from kneading dough;
and times that involved no touching at all but came in the surprised flight of
starlings from bare trees, my limbs an imitation of their outward corporate
burst which I cupped, struggling, to my chest until the moment they could be
set free inside him. (I was spared the syncretic threat of swans, not to mention
their ungovernable bills, though I admired them, nonetheless, from a distance.)
Every time he left me as one does the room of a beloved host: more than tidy,
lived in; comforts tucked in corners out of way for future visits, more familiar
than I was before he found me. I, by turns, left him like a sodded spade: caked
in clods of earth, closer to a thing he was unmade for. When I finally conceived,
it was a shock to everyone, not least of all to me; I had stopped thinking then
in terms of rationales. I know this isn’t possible, but it was almost like what
we had to show for it ended up a culmination of our trying, each tide subsiding
having calcified the new life now between us. It was the best kind of love, and
made me not mind the jealous looks I got from other girls who thought I had
no reason to be smiling as I did. He is making it still. Its in the tension river
water holds above the stone it passes over, its in the way gulls catch their
balance as they walk by shifting wings. He is there, pouring over us,
making something new, asking only for our unashamed consent.