I See The Face of Christ

for Pam Cross

In every face
the nun says
as a train barrels
as The Beast barrels
down tracks like twin tick marks
down tracks like a to-do list
this Honduran woman
clutching her 1-year old son
on its top–
not the belly–
on the top
of this beast
this is a list
she never gets to make
a clock that never stops
its tick, a list she never gets
to cross off
with a flourish
no flourish
like the flourish
we use to clutch
the baby we once held
in our belly
to our tit
trembling with the roar
of the beast

the car I drive to work
hums quietly
at no point today
will the lights go out
for good
no one wielding
a machete
will pull me by the hair
from the knit corners
of my office
that nun’s voice so clear & weighted
it’s like she clutches
that woman
her boy—she sees
the face of Christ
in every face she sees
the face—

some days it’s like
I can open my mouth
and inhale the whole of history
be full with it, release,
weep tears of blood
on stone, be Mary, be Mary
weep for the face
of Christ      I clutch
my son at night while he sleeps
he will never know: in every face
I see,
she says, her voice
a sharp thing: an arrow
to pierce my heart, some masked man’s
knife to my baby’s neck.

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for V

How tempting to begin
with the scientist telling me how the eye doesn’t see
at all, just transmits light and shape
to the greedy brain– poor, sad eye, just a blind blinking
light on the camera– is it on? we wonder
aloud at what amazes, disgusts:

3 men in masks
spot a woman
with a perfect, round ass
wrestle her shirt and bra
from her tits,
film her goodies,
cut her to bits–

If I commit the scientist
to paper, some critic
will hate it, offer it
as proof of my failure
to transmit the unseeable

at least 2000 ways to get inside of this
and I chose the scientist
with his hazel-flecked eyes
beneath the horn-rimmed glasses–

not of the spectacle of the woman
on her back, mouth flung carelessly
open, unable to see the mouth
parting her, fingers trapped
inside of her, some other vision
in the dark: the brain a blank
slate, the body just wants, wants, wants

all the time, wants–

like me, you’re afraid
to close your eyes at night
in bed. Who might get in?

Open eyes: twin cameras flashing.

Here is the unsayable always rising
up in a dream, the dark men
who could take my son, take me from
my son– you want a fence
around your daughter, around your heart
that beats inside her small
brown body: no one can say
what will happen when you hand over half
of yourself; sometimes, I thought

If I am quiet enough
I can hear the cells split;

how often I locked myself
in the bathroom, the black shapes
just shapes, divorced 
from my eye, from my tongue
two bodies just bodies of one dark fear
the man outside crashing, looking
to clutch at me, to reach for the body
inside me, his body was my body
then, just as suddenly, he was his–

You want a fence
you want a camera

but what you don’t know: the fence leads only
to another, you’ll want a camera inside the camera
to show you the inner workings, the thoughts
of whoever lurks just out beyond the angry links,

the chains that glisten in the moonlight, the doberman
with its pointed ears, their own kind of lens–

this is the perpetual night of your brain–

someone is picking the lock
someone is slipping inside
and he lives only in your unseen, invisible
blinking light of your naked eye, forced open

while your daughter sleeps

a half-smile on her lips.

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Please Read This Essay–

Which absolutely astounded me.http://drshahsofficehours.wordpress.com/2014/06/05/my-last-day-as-a-professor/

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Underearners Anonymous

My ex could swallow handfuls
of pills without a single glass
of anything, not least
a mirror to show him
the rivulets of black blood
or  his son’s identical mouth
or a window through which to browse
the wide world existing daily
without a single oblong tablet
to make it spin. My friend says
she’s joined underearners anonymous.
I snort. Get a job. Get a job
that pays. 10 years close reading
Dostoyevsky for 12 crooked steps
it’s out of my hands
which a few times tipped the glass
of water to his mouth
to make it go down easy, baby
an economy of motion
please don’t spill
a drop or the god
you’ve given this over to
might hover in the glass
spit hard once more
into our four good eyes.

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Don’t Let Me Love You

Or I will turn you
into something unrecognizable

if you were a novel
now you’re a drum kit
waiting to be thrashed

if you were a beautiful man
inked and boiling
with love for some awful woman

now you’re my young neighbor
who only leaves her house
in short shorts and heels

spied through my window
oiling her hair– your hair–
into licorice twists

I’m so tired of being
your daughter, I never want
to hear the word patriarchy

again, I want one day
where I am someone
else, turned, god-smacked

into beauty, loved out of recognition
by someone exactly like you.

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What Little I Wouldn’t Permit in a Dream

Madness to think this is happening
in someone else’s poem: we’ve been rediscovered
in the late-late work of Larry Levis, dug up from a false-bottomed drawer
stuck in a locked box buried beneath his cowboy boot-sole, some grad student
found a letter with a poem she close read as a treasure map, and

there we are: two blurry women. We are not
the sun, we are the shame
of someone’s dead father’s fading mind, the weight
heavy and hanging over every false move we make, we grasp
for purchase– if you can describe something as mad, does it prove

you’re not mad, but really what other word fits
my decision, last night, alone in bed, that if I kissed her, if she allowed
her mouth to open under mine, I would suddenly know
(I would dive inside her body, I would enter
the center of world’s largest theoretical crash)

My God– her body
consists entirely of starlight, and I am not looking
to purchase a thing, or hold her in my mouth

for if we stop moving, we will disappear, dissolve
into the background of that other poem, where I serve some man

(his cock is writ large, but so small, I have to purse
my lips to keep it from falling out and disappearing, too)

and she serves another, and I will never know the glittering light inside her
and I will never know what she might see, scrawled and scratched, in me.

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If There’s A Script, Mine Was Lost

Easter Saturday, Easter
Eve, the afternoon, the half-assed bastard
zombie, red-headed step-
child of Christmas, the cold
South Jersey spring, the puffs of plum, spun
sugar on the vine
and my son
face deep in a bee’s hive
of pink cotton candy
on the Ocean City Boardwalk.

Ocean City: dry town the Methodists
founded some time
outside of time, a foreverland of 1910, brass
bands, striped pants, everything
costs a dime while the black folks
struggle in real time, a memory
of someone’s memory’s bright thought bubble, a graphic
novel crouched in wait to be thrashed
out on the page. Ocean City: the boardwalk
thrums with all these other
lives, and I talk my pink-toothed son
into riding the elephants, cram him in
to the inside seat of a dirty dove-
gray Dumbo who spins slowly
on a glowing axis. Oh Earth, reified: with the simple tug
of the plastic lever grinning at us
from Dumbo’s center, we can choose
to rise and fall and rise again. But when? I never
know. I don’t know when to stop. I don’t

know when to go. I didn’t sign up
to be the captain of this or any other ship, isn’t
that why the pock-faced kid in the red wrinkled polo
gets to flip the big red switch? Isn’t he my little
90-second god-ditch? Everyone must be watching
and wanting to know
why we’re up high while the others
fly low, the five-year old ponytail
in front of me has clearly gotten the memo. My son
is screaming to get down. The elephants keep going

round. I am waiting for the day
I am finally someone else’s hired clown, when I will know
exactly when to go, to take the proper cue– Come out,
someone (stage left) whispers into Christ’s dear ear.

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