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Seraph

from Seraph


I

Uriel, you are in the attic again, sewing shadows to yourself
the peaked roof and dawn doing justice to your struggles
while you knit a semblance of humanity to your edges,
muss your hair into fine triangles, and cast prisms to the walls.
Little sleep is needed, when I wake I pretend not to notice
you blowing hills and rivers into my ears. I pretend
that you do not check for a rattle in my chest
when you press your head there, that you look
human when you light your cigarettes, that you
are ravenous because of hunger.
Uriel, you forgot that the doorway
in the back of the attic is a dropoff and walked out,
stood there flutterless, your naive wings barely stirring the air.

II

Uriel, as fall lisps into winter,
the crow’s beaks seem to be disappearing.
Tell me that this is an act of the Lord, that like Gerard,
I must find faith in words after seeing so many blackshod bodies
lose their place in this world. Tell me that it is the Lord’s hand
that marks the trees with charcoal sketches and the sky with ashy
aftermath, so that we can read there the presence of
the unified heart, the dismissed pure matter,
the stringy selfmark we hide for shame of similarity.
Uriel, you have been cast down from the place
where the crows now go. Uriel, our divinity is uncertain.
Walk with me while the crows still sit beside the near fallen leaves,
while their black bodies still fissure the gray-blue plait of sky,
walk with me and watch for the certain cool burn
of their heavenly retreat -
then take me back to the attic, to your white arms,
and do not speak of God.

III

Uriel, as a child I would wake to walk from the deceptive houses.
Each day would take me from the placard rows, the neat sickness,
each day would take me through the forest to the horses, whose barn
smelled of hay, whose hooves smelled of dirt, whose
sides gleamed solid and forgiving.
It was holy to lie in the tangle of those wounding limbs,
to breathe in the eaves of the astounding ribcage. It was holy
to beat the ground behind us as morning rose on
the still unjust world. Uriel, I sleep in the city and the city
stretches its eaves for the sleeping.
I sleep in the city and wake to walk. I walk in the city and the city
is entrenched in growling slumber.
I go to the islands, the city ferries me there in its palm,
the city says, you cannot leave the people.
The people build furnaces and the city burns.
The people build pipes and the city floods.
The people sleep in the city, and I dream
of crawling into the belly of a horse,
of breathing in the pink light cast between the slatted bones.
Uriel, the Lord told the Israelites not to multiply horses
unto themselves, lest they return to Egypt wrathful.
I have not multiplied horses unto myself,
though I know their limbs to be consecration.
I have not left the city, though the city never wakes.

IV

Uriel, can only the bearded amongst men be kind,
is the exposed face an act of eroded faith?
Today in the cab the Sikh spoke of the sword inside us,
his long hair was bound to his head
with black cloth. I saw that tongues are the tips of our sharpness.
I saw that we mend wounds and retain wonder at the cutting.
It was noon, and I loved his yielding words. Later, I loved him,
and within this love was his family, with their uncut hair
and solemn knees.
Uriel, you tell me that love at this velocity strips itself down
to desire.
You say love ignites only when the sacred
rubs up against possible. I desire all the people,
and for each of the people I desire a black bird,
and for each of the black birds I desire
a branch, a loud voice, and a name.
Let the people go nameless; let us look to the sky.
Let the black birds line their mouths with our making.


V

Uriel, when we met I was small and shaken
in a sweat drenched bed. I was the pitcher of water
to wash unwilling heads, I was set down to be filled
and I was lifted again.
My father said, you must give the people mercy
and the Lord said, mercy has yet to come. Uriel,
when we met my eyes were turned back in my head,
searching for some small light to call on for comfort.
It was you who entered the shuffling sheets of my mind
through that tiny point of brightness.
It was you who that came to lay
the wing of your hand upon my ribs. I do not know
if the Lord lifted his leaden head that night,
but I saw his beautiful horrible prints on your back
when you moved out to wash in the white light
cast between the slatted blinds. I saw the heavy hanging
of your yet unused sex between the awful pillars of your thighs.
I saw that your hands were worn from the worry
of wrestling Jacob, from being held too close
to the unbearable flame.
Uriel, that night you thought I was blind, a borne kitten
that wants its mothers tongue.
You placed your hands upon me to stay the shaking
and appeared as all things are seen, a beam of light
in a roughened robe.
Uriel, you forgot that in each vessel of the Lord
there is a heart, and in that heart is a room, and in that room
is a seat where one can lean against the window and watch.

Posted 01/16/10
Several stanzas from an ongoing work. Stanzas I, II and III originally published in The Beloit Poetry Journal. Stanza V originally published in Prairie Schooner.
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