I could mistake a life for
too many dusks darkening
along the spine. Somebody was saying
the skeleton of our faith, the skeleton of our faith
but whose? There are two-
hundred & six bones that hold
the human body like this: ninety-four
bones have disappeared from you. So forgive me—
no. They are always still
there inside you. Rejoicing how they
merged into this you. Rejoicing
like a day’s worth of light hitting your body
fleshed with only its ribcage. A mother was said
to shoot back at the men—for killing
her family. It was dawn. So many bodies, so
why remember it now?
The first time I went to church I cried
in that Sunday school closet. Someone said you’ll probably
burn after you die for being
this skin. For this skin your ghosts agreed on.
my jawline & neck bone
is an animal-
skinned god left out for good.
Counting back to zero.
& when the lamps are on in the house
the first sound
I lose is the forest
dressed in fire.
Every summer was this: fields & fields
of ash. Someone said
it’s like midnight scraped from a muffler. & I believed
I was awake
in the ochre-blasted wheat: talking &
talking bones. Back & forth. A rust-on-rust kind of conversation
about every story
carved into the land like a testament on the inside
of the mouth.
My mother spoke at night about hunger like a child
holding his face together
of his first art project. Of course
it was his mother: the yarn
her hair. No, what she meant was
everyday is an act of starvation.
& I promised my body to so many. But the living body was
in a way
spoken for. So I stopped.
I stopped & put my ear to your belly. You said, listen for the aurora
in your own lungs.
When living is a season
across a field between us breathing
& our dead, your savior watched
as the ghost reached down
& then brought his hand to his mouth.
He was told: be obedient.
Like any decent animal. Placing
invisible serviceberries on his tongue & eating
into a stillness
an air unfinished for so many reasons.
& darling, if our mouths happen
to touch someday: remember—
it means only that I am speaking
to you. That we have always been speaking
to each other.
Someone said fragility like survival.
The fragility of our people is not
within the flesh: but the footprints
of the gods who once lived here. & abandoned their homes to us.
This bone-bright air, the promised land
of angels lying
in the grass with no memory
of who had left them there
I could mistake this year for any other
grave I’ve dug. For someone
who said—boy, welcome to your life. I didn’t know
the hands were nothing
were everything we said
they could be—a shadow of every body
you’ve ever wanted to touch.
I look into a mirror as if afraid.
Afraid to say: you should look in the mirror before you leave
today. I stare at you like the last mirror
I remember breaking.
Copyright © Michael Wasson
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.