Poetry at Sangam




And with that, I then
Began to hear
In the branches, in the leaves,
A lantern-lit, moth-begotten
Tolling of altered silence:
Holes in the universe, speaking.

So it was, will be —
Must have been. Every step I took
From the instant of laying down
A child’s devotions,
Honey spoon and straw-gold blouse,
Was an ordinary step.
Riding out through the men in my leather breeches
— Every breath was only breath
Made of accident and purpose,
Fused moisture and air.

And everywhere we moved,
Every day — was hunger, the dry sponge.

Fire was near.
Fire was set there
To replace me
In my first unholy visions
And remained, fire in waiting.

God was anywhere
I put God. Side to side
In the ranks of soldiers
Or among the ghastly courtiers.
I could not divide
Myself from anything.
Snapped pennants that shine like blooded silk.
Muttering and chanting, the rocks
Wrapped in foam
In the stream below,
Inseparable from streaming flocks
In migrations above.

We cleave and are cleaved —
Annealed or annulled,
Baked in our hides by hammering sun
Or burst loose through openings
Jangling reflections of fire
Spear moment by moment
In the indivisible flesh.

They will offer me one hour
To recant. I will try
Again, to deny
Plume and blade, confess
All I’ve heard
Was the wind or wailing ewes,
Echoing of bells upon bells
Undulating with rapture;
Nourished, breast and brain,
By old bread soaked in wine.

Yet it’s they who vanish
With the stroke. I can write
No name but my own.

I believe in the theater of bodies.
I believe we could live on the skin
Of a drum. Weighed down
Like a mule, I would carry you further.
With just enough water
To simply wet my tongue
I would sing the day longer, and spin

Into torchlight.