I had been having problems with my skin.
It was getting red and shiny with plaque.
Recently I had noticed words appearing
In the plaque. At first they were words
In languages I could not read but as
The disease progressed more and more
Words began appearing all over my body.
They were not sentences, just words.
Most were verbs and adjectives but
Nouns began to creep into the sites
That appeared on my hands. By the end
Of the month I was covered in words.
Whenever I said anything it would appear
On my body within a few hours. Sometimes
In English but Arabic, Hindi, the Romance
Languages, Braille bumps and International
Sign Language hand signs appeared.
I began to speak in gibberish and slang
More and more often. Eventually I became
A book. A book that walked but a book nonetheless
Covered with shiny words that might appear
At any time, anywhere on my body.
My physicians tried a panoply of medications
On me. After six months the words began
To fade quickly. My doctors told me that
I would never be cured but that I must become
A poet to deal with the disease. I have done
So. Now all I have is a bad case of psoriasis.
ACROSS THE HEART
It was a black we were
Supposed to know the name of.
The keen eye of the hawk
Could trace the footprints of a mouse
Across our heart and dive to make
It part of its own body.
That night we slept on shell casings.
There were so many they were warm
Most of the night. I watched
The sky. I could read messages
There. They told me to bring
You tidings that the night
Would return as a gift for us.
That morning, sporadic machine
Gun fire. A barn, pure white
Near the west camp
Was shot full of holes. They knew
Our names and could say them
If asked. We were never asked.
The plains seem to come out of nothing.
We had been in rolling hills all day.
Then, just before evening was getting serious
About everything, passing through a break of willows,
We were on the plain.
They went on forever.
They had no need of us.
We were as dandelion seeds
To the air, horses and all.
"One, one, one," I sang, mostly
To myself, for I was in love
With this work of breathing.
There, outside, able to say God
And have it mean something
That sent shivers through me
Like the lessons of Winter
And the lighted stars, crisp
In their home.
Oh, to never be blind to these things.
Room after room of them.
We made a simple camp and told
Stories to one another as if he were
THE LENGTH OF THE DAY
The sweet fur of the spider
Held over the flame for only
A few seconds and the fur
Burned and the custard of its body
Became a treat for children
Who live in that forest.
He thought there was some reason
To keep fire. So he did,
In a small jar next to his
Bed. At night he would remove
It and play with it,
Running his fingers along
its back and make
Soft noises to it.
The fire would lick his hands
And roll itself through his hair
Crackling and snapping.
“Sweet fire,” he would say
And the words were cinders
Covering his bed.
(first published in sum magazine,
1968, by Carl Woideck)
IT IS MORNING
The heavy eye of the moon
Lies in a tangled heap
Just above a small clump
Of trees. There is no move-
Ment anywhere in the land.
A mist begins rising.
A mist that just fits inside
The shirt of a man, near the
Narrow space of heart and lungs.
Now some bullets are walking
In the air. They are about
The size and shape of bees.
One of them has entered
The mist. The others follow.
Quickly they eat the narrow
Space inside the shirt.
It is morning.
(first published in sum magazine, 1968,
by Carl Woideck)
The moon looked as if it had carved
A place for itself in the night sky.
An aching yellow-blue, it nearly sighed
Across the night.
We went down to the creek.
On nights like these, the fish there
Would pick up the bits of moonlight
That reached them and swallow them.
Their bodies glowed with the light
That poured through them.
They swam around a reflected moon
In the water and shafts of moonlight
Rippled away from the spot
And made magic of the night.
And I am the neighbor to this spot.
The light is as clear as this,
I tell myself, and think
Of your face as you sleep,
Angels in your skin.
The stuff of dreams that call
Heaven down into your body.
And all the night is Queen
Anne's Lace and the whisper-
Song of great things that never
Had a home on this sad earth
But spoke the angel language
Silence articulates for us.
We are a holy place.
This is a holy place.
For all things must die
And are holy because of this.
The fish swim in circles
As there is no death at all.
Bring me a pool of bright water.
Make it tremble upon the air.
Tell me the sky is your singing.
I swear I will ever be there.
This is the home to home.
This is the spirit uncoiled.
This is the endless heart and face.
This is the golden child.
And for battle we may have come
But we forgot it all
And I would want no other's touch—
Not angel’s silk, no one at all.
But bring me the white of heart smoke
And the red breath of the fire,
For I have known the love you give
And I shall know no other.