Poetry at Sangam




When you die, Love, I will leave you out
like a Zoroastrian, listen to the hiss
of oxygen withdraw, watch your blood
pool and glister while protein filaments
lock, and stiffness strikes your eyelids,
neck, jaw. And I will touch—of course,
I will touch your discoloured skin,
your beard, the sundry coils of hair,
as your body morphs from man to farm.
It will almost kill me to see the swarms
of blowflies colonise the fens and flower-
beds of your nose, mushrooms vaulting
from the mud of abdomen, skin so blue
and mottled, the bloat and putrefaction.
But darling, what of ruined flesh?
Of scorpion flies making Bloody Marys
and Bellinis from the dregs of your brain fluid?
These bacterial passengers, ancient druids,
have left migration tracks along the furrows
of your gut, built kingdoms in the outposts
of your capillaries, spilled so much blood.
Those in the know call it thanatomicrobiome,
but we know it as something else, this ecosystem
feeding on the country of you as sheets of skin
slip like glaciers, and the purge begins.
There is nothing secret or impure about
your death, but still, I come in darkness
to lay my words like eggs in the wounds
of your orifices. And what my words mean
to say is that I am bereft, that I long
for the myth of sunlight in a room—
my head against your chest, the ghost
of your beating heart. The sky will be
here soon to adorn her ears with you.
She is jealous of our history, of our
afternoons of whispered Ungaretti.
When she comes, Love, I will lie with you.
We will be dead stars again, thumbs entwined,
looking back at the mystery of ourselves.