Unwritten Letter to Michelle Boisseau
Dear Michelle, because you had cancer
and I had cancer, you put your arms around me,
Mother of poems. You put your arms around me
in a banquet hall. Because I had cancer
and you had cancer, we recognized each other.
In a crowd, we sat at the same table,
discussing diets: me, going ketogenic, you going
with the green sludge your guru
concocted to countermand glasses of red wine,
your thirst for life. Your students called you sergeant,
as I would, and follow you, Michelle, as I know one day
I must, because you dropped F-bombs
in the name of Poetry and though I find myself today
once more among the living, I put on my blues
for you, Michelle, my blue jeans and T-shirt
V-necked like the flock of geese I hear faintly honking.
Sky blue I am for you, cirrus-chalked and shadow-lined.
Why does my heart beat while yours does not?
The pin oak shushes me, and I suffer myself to be quiet.
Listen to the poetry of that one breath the world
heaves overhead and all around me. Hell, yes, Michelle.
Hell, yes, I’ll raise a ruckus. Write your vigor.
Write your sex. Sing and singe in the threadbare seam
between being and being gone. Sing, Jesus, sing.
* * *
Ars Poetica with Radiation Mask
I have sat my radiation mask
for three years on the window ledge
in my study. Spider webs waft like drapes
in the emptiness it houses. Ear to ear,
its emptiness is holy, as full
of holes as a leaky ceiling in the sanctuary
I cannot bear to throw it away. It holds the memory
of my October at the Department of Radiology, the memory
of my head held still enough to receive
the beams into my brain. Rafters of light slide
from the windowpane the same way as those other beams.
They slide through galaxies
of dust in the cloistered air of my study. The mask remembers
my face. I put it on
and it remembers the way my face felt, netted,
caught like a fish in the latticework
pulled from the silence
of the deep.
* * *
At the Independence Women’s Clinic
Slick and muscular as a tongue
in the jaw, my son stretches,
outgrowing his bag of waters.
Tattooed men walk in wearing flipflops
and wife-beaters, desert
with dreadlocks and ballcaps. Their wives
and girlfriends stroke full bellies beside them
in mood lighting dimmer-switched
among the fibrous ceiling panels. Waterlilies
shoulder gilded frames. Potted yuccas
stand sentry. Below my hand,
the Son of Man rolls over the walls
of her womb like a tongue, mouthing
the Word made flesh.
* * *