Poem: What it is I wear

It masquerades,
stolen word for a creature
that cannot name itself,
for an entity
that existed before there was life as we know it
will continue to exist when life as we know it
has perished.
Phonetics evoke more than etymology—
it is no tribes,
no tongues,
no buildings.

It does wear black,
it does paint its face,
it does garb itself in certain patterns
and certain cuts.
It does smoke and it does drink.
It does bedeck its bony places
in silver and leather, gems and lace,
silk and velvet and latex alike,
and it does bedeck its fleshy places with ink.
There are songs that it knows,
there are songs that it readily learns.
These are not the meaning,
not the cause.

It does belong to the young,
and to the unchallenged,
and to the first time struggle,
and to hormones fertilizing follicles and erections.
It does belong to the aesthetes.
It is a dalliance.
And then it belongs to the old
aging alongside or returning to it
like to a childhood home.
It belongs to the seasoned,
to the lifelong fighter,
to the bitterness of time.
It belongs to the activist.
It is a commitment.

It survives without humanoid embodiment,
without earthly music,
without reasons,
without memories.

Dry leaves. Grubs that strip the skull.
A rip and a shriek.
Standing alone on a barren mount.
The tightness in the throat
before salt spills from the eyes.
The last waltz. Pleas and refusals.
Eulogy. Memento. That half-cooked heart.
Drowning (always, of course, drowning).
Faint snaps and clicks
over a deeper thud.
Extinction and forsaken hope.
What words are cried through the rain.
Tombs, and sleep gained only after sobs.
Night, not as idol but as compulsion.
Sliding denials. Smudged reflections.
The home that was burned
and the forest razed.
Ash mistaken for snow. Tubes sprouting from skin.
Subterranean transit. Doors closing.

every instance of that perfect word,
“fuck.” And yes, bleeding, and yes, pain,
the sort of pain conjured by slicing metal.
Prostration before whatever force drove the first hands
to bring the first paint
to the first cave wall.
(The oldest known cave dwelling holds a bear skull in it, an altar to decay created thirty millennia past.)
A legend, a cult. Nightmares of fire from the sky. Writhing.
Covering ears against the horns of the wild hunt,
only to uncover them.
Bodies without wills and wills without bodies,
only to mock the foolishness
of all who imagine bodies and wills are distinct.
Pomegranate. Cold. Crawling through mud.
The walk to the executioner.
Rust and tarnish.
Screaming as the deer is skinned.
Bastards birthed and gods ingested. Hordes.
The night wind drying sweat from the neon-bathed face,
as the body leans against the brick wall
and finds breath after deafening rhythms.
Shots of vodka, bottles of rum.
Mutilation. Yes, what they call the devil.
Collapsing at ill news.
Electronics under skin,
electronics surrounding skin.
The shuttle at the loom. The rising chorus.
Gunfire and thunderclaps.
When the fabric tears.
Hunting in the snow.
The sinuous body caught in the tryst.

Candlelight. Bells. Chimes. Vigils and silence.

Kindled stars over grey seas.
Must walk to the beat funneled to your ears.
Pennyroyal. A hand pulls the cord.
That woman stands at the dulcimer, quick-fingered.
Final cries and exultations. Moons and milk.
A rush and a murmur. Lying in stupor.
Madness and steadfastness.
They’re gone; they’re gone.
Conjuring. Hymns. The bar is closed.

Those black figures grind themselves over the sidewalks,
fueled by such tokens.
They loiter and linger like crows
with a stolen word
for their world,
lurkers for something’s loyal opposition.


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