after John Donne & for N. P.
I have only these two hands with which to praise
you, Brother, & the man you’ve made of melancholy—
tender, modest—buried deep in the treasury
of your marrow. One palm to reach back to the days
when Kansas swelled in every song you sang across the bay’s
gilt-gelded hour; the other to unfold with sweet sincerity
toward your becoming, your kingdom coming home.
How long has the mirror warped its reply—always?
Mine, too. Digits are my future’s tongue: for you the ends
of daisies coax themselves open between my fingers to rest
their heads like jewels in a diadem. But if I truly possessed
the hands for horticulture, I’d make a wreath of laurel that attends
like a surgeon to your sovereignty & stitch that garland high
across your chest: a crown for a king whose spring is nigh.
Across your chest, a crown for a king whose spring is nigh
& around your head, no thorns. Expecting is everywhere:
even the earth grows redundant above the bulbs to bear
the eruption of prophecies. Every year we don’t die
so much as disappear; delay defines desire & so we lie
in wait for the season to ripen & recur. There is no there
there—but a quiet parade of ordinary days that wear
down the word that will become your name. I will not try
to throw my shadow where my body cannot be: yea, thou
art now thy maker’s maker & I cannot predict you, Brother,
any more than I might predict the sun. What consents to now
becoming soon? One morning, that sun will mother
us anew. It’ll be like the first time you stood across the room
& friendship made us born again without the help of any womb.
Friendship made us born again, without the help of any womb,
though our wombs—what queer brutes—were there. Imprisonment,
when body-borne, befalls us all from birth: no matter our intent
or worth, our wrong’s right origin or creed or girth, we all come
out as runaways, as captive birds singing latent praise to the room
of flesh that confines us now instead. What then to do but orient
to these limit’s latest lines: not even the smallest mind could prevent
you from your festal advent or crowning to foredoom
a life in skin fitted for anyone but you. Brother, let them say he
when they arrive, years too late, to celebrate you who can belie
nothing but their wisdom; let them come baring the gift of a thigh
prepped for injection; let them baptize you king not kin, & beseech thee
to stay, & prey upon the earth until those that would have you go
know the grief tied up in going & partake of your woe.
Know the grief tied up in going—and? Partake in your woe,
Brother, but don’t make it a throne. Yes: We can sit
at any bar or booth & build a refuge with our wit,
but given our age, perhaps we could repay a debt & bestow
upon ourselves comfort by a duller blade? Lo,
this is a life—yours & mine—with too few years in it
to make another prix fixe resurrection fit. Where is it writ
but in the faithful sham of assimilation that in order to fully know
ourselves we must convert & not amend? Brother, manhood
is a resolution that won’t ripen in my ears. And what ripeness
is cure? It’s been hard to hear, but it’s sound: our bodies are good
enough to be crowned sanctuaries without the fix-business
of evangelism for only one of two. Aren’t we where three began?
Don’t leave, Brother. I’ll be double-hyphens & you? You’ll be a man.
Don’t leave? Brother, I’ll be. Twinned half, you are a man
with a body like a cross you can’t put down & whose weight might begat
your end even if they do not nail you to it. Ah, ambitious hate:
to desire the life that might take it from you. Once our reflections ran
flat hands down ace bandages in a pledge to a new promised land & can
you believe our ribs stayed put when the men kicked through them? Immaculate
ensemble, we bled our own flag. We hung it in strips from the shower bar, a fate
divined in dinnertime tickertape. What version of exodus can span
this wilderness: I remember the man who threw lot & leather, but it was she
I could not hear or see who cast the first vote & meant to kill me. By & by
we’re gone before we can warn the next: two bodies diverge at a fist & both die
by metaphor. I salute your I am, Brother, neither of us similes. I sign T-H-E-E
as if English doesn’t make my hand, too, a weapon. What is there to condole
but a wrong that’s all my own? Isn’t me-WRONG a kiss to the cheek & not the soul?
IX-we MISTAKE QM-wiggle A turned cheek, that’s all. But to KISS-FIST the soul,
esse quam videri—PAH! eyebrows up Let’s start again. Cheer up: they’ve no degree
in what makes a body wrong, Brother, nor of separation from to be
to between or betrayal. If it is that our bodies are not too foul
for revival only within requiem (ah, another hymn) shouldn’t we control
at least our reproduction? What kind of wannabe does it make me—
will should I have—that crabs cankered my breasts & I duplicated the misery
of reconstruction just so I could bind them as I wish? Not jury; justice. Enroll
a pretender, but call them Poet: our parabolic flesh may be putrified
by interlopers, but it’s ready-made for lyres. Refrain your song—as if it was
the girl you’re afraid to give up. Sing her lower (your tenor glorified
the vehicle, the soprano, & then some) just to see. Brother, we won’t pass
in worlds that do not tender sanction until we pass away. Get up. May
you become your own coronation anthem & help me, too, remake this day.
You become your own coronation, anthem, & help me to remake this Day,
without ballad or blues, in a shape I can see. You are no one’s son,
but you are my Brother—& in the light of this prophecy, even tribulation
pulls down confetti. Brother, BROTHER in my hands is like clay
birds in another’s: half right & already alive. What stowaway
hides its form inside mine? What promise might light upon
my laurel: I am free & not alone. We are free & not alone.
Into whose palms can I commit your spirit? I know only one way
to make a crown & it requires the two hands of BROTHER. Lend me
your fingers & harmonize them to mine. There is no path
to ascend but a finger to thumb; no summit but the self or sea
save its rising that does not sing a body thy own just wrath
but signs it electric. Go on: whatever crown you have to raise
I have only these two hands with which to praise.