Body Bag

What are you if not a better skin?
a symbol for what’s kept

within folds of sterile plastic:
coiled, cinched tight

as a blindfold around muscles
and a skeleton—Nothing flinches,

nothing turns inside
your barren walls. Impervious

purse, what kicks against
your stomach never stirs

from within: the clock of bones
in my intricate hands—

or some ligature of wind—
will brush against your surface

and send you rippling
into the sound of static. Black

gown, what you hold
was once exquisite: Be dark

enough to keep my eyes
from seeing what gestates inside.



I’m done with all this talk of breath—
                        the crush of waves that coalesced

into an unplowed field of sea
                        has fouled your mouth repeatedly 

with water. Its flower reappears
                        above my head as atmosphere

and seeds itself in thunderheads—
                        but I’m done with thinking of the dead.

I’m done, too, with this talk of tongues
                        and how a mouth can be undone

by something lifeless as the sea.
                        We both know that it should have been me

whose bronchials held down, still burn,
                        whose body holds an ocean’s worth

of salt scorching its bloodless veins.
                        You fall now as torrential rain

and fill me as a black cistern:
                        a bowl to hold your mass on earth,

where you still tremble on some coast.
                        But I’m done searching for your ghost

through the catacombs of night terrors:
                        room by awful room, you enter

my paralysis: my sleep.
                        Once again you’ve learned to speak 


I don’t believe in god or ghosts, but, dead
    for days, he reappeared. Not as I remember
him, not flesh, on an invisible wind—fed
    by equilibrium—not from dirt untethered.
He resurrected as blood-warm weather,
    as flight, an exit wound in anemic clouds,
empty as a gun barrel. After we found

    his body, I hid my mouth beneath sheets
in my coffin-rack. Breathless, I drowned
    myself awake, my skin pale as the meat
of a pear. How could he appear, facedown
    underwater, then circle like an hour
overhead, some I caged inside reliquary 
    bones that bends birds to flight, tourniqueting

sky around their wings, pink as match heads?
    Who charcoaled the tongues of flaming birds,
made mine, with artless blasphemy, shed
    unholy syllables? The unheard
Gods made men devour the tongues of birds,
    as if a song might solidify a place inside soil
and not above, where bodies never spoil.

    Or maybe I have too much faith in eyes.
I can’t recall the shape of every stone,
    but, somehow, my mind has memorized
the double helix’s whorl, which makes bone,
    muscle, eye, and everything I know.
And somewhere in its simple code—cells,
     mitochondria—an atom cannot tell

where the living end, where the dead begin:
    each breath must be a memory in lungs
designed to fail this blood rubble, ruin
    of skin, a body born from a million suns
exploding. Am I just the sky undone,
    a clot of chemistry, dreaming a shepherd
for its dead? I am—if god is ghost or bird.