from The Manifold
I wanted to emerge
for one night
from the outfall pipe
clear my name—
a genuflection, a song
from the sewage
that falls into the stream
If you are going to join me, elbow deep in this accretion, try to maintain contradictory sensations.
Two hands stay with me; no one replaces anyone else.
Pull on the collective garb, its sagging crotch and twisted seams, its bustle and darts. Festoons swathe and gather around the figure of a body. You stumble into the parade.
Here we could say it begins: mid-summer mythic, anywhere arid and western will do.
Dragging one sodden foot from the mud of the poached riverbank, breathless I stood sucking my hair. Taste has something to teach. This wasn’t Sisyphean, but I’ll invoke what I must so you understand I was taught to blend my voice in a choir, I slipped under barbed wire.
Various landscapes and objects emerge: ruby-bellied newts swimming in the kiddie pools of fourplexes. Locate the body. Uniform of want I was born wearing, its reinforced stitches and heraldic epaulettes, without troop.
I said I am not the mother, we are playing orphans.
The tendency for the sacramental kitten—I still have it. And still, we know what becomes of the outdoor cat who finds more than one porch from which to feed, kept trim stalking fieldmice. Semis whistling their chrome tones in the near-flung semi-arid distance.
I began collecting the outdoor kind. He wanted an anchor to call home, as did I, both of us prone to wander so that each act became a bond to be dissolved. In the night, with the humpyard crash filling the small house, we stilled each other.
Whoever endured a feeling with a dirty face, delinquent tendencies remaining, would be either bright geyser or slut, boiling under the surface. What properties of force! Slow-cooker pot-roast Sundays made a garment drape from the shoulders, salvific! Yet the end of the day pooled indiscernibly about the ankles, the white undies of any other day.
The tedium we endure becomes the ground we require to vault from fall to cartwheel. Inimitable and inevitable, it takes time for the book to be disassembled. The body takes a long time to resemble itself.
Of our debt we were born knowing. If we could sell enough calendars, we thought, we could stand upright.
Others only flirted, they only would be kissed in the split-level architecture of elsewhere. I was slick as a newly dropped calf. My lips were wounded, but my gait was not evil. As if we could simply shorten our stride to prevent this hitch. Notice the body’s articulation, where it snags and catches, the discovery of your own stench, necessary knowledge. Out institutional windows we wondered: when would the pheromones bear their truth? When did the skort become skirt? When will the feral find each other?
How many I name baby: my baby eating trash and dry leaves, my baby rocking the cage. I say this as if to pocket it.
To pet and be the pet ‘til the death of another day parts us, the sun parting horizon and sky. My attention, another kind of vow I am sounding out into the depths of night. We listen for the echo to ricochet our own voices decayed and sustained.
Easily we make room for another body while we survey the space to house our voice.
Asked not quite audibly:
is every day a loop to a hare,
every bird a bell to a god?
Pressed to my ear,
the conch lets me hear
a small portion of my sorrow.
Here, another cairn whose shadow I am building. See it become substance in the sun’s movement, see it darken and sharpen.
This pitcher may be cracked but grasp the handle, see what pours out.
The poem joins up with contingent truth. Hands greasing a pan, shaping a loaf. The wood piled high for the winter where the mice live. Of all the great dangers, work was the most imperceptible, its idling engine keeps you warm.
Surface is needed to expel what is stupid: also to get purchase on what is true. Seasonally outfitted with a bag of salt or kitty litter, we get ourselves unstuck on backroads with others’ names on them.