The Flight Cage
After so many years of abbreviated sky, the new bird
is cast from the bars of its former cage.
What’s left of the aviary is the no longer boy,
a soldier unable to exit a door he never entered.
He drops off the kids, puffs out his little adopted cloud
into Nevada. Some of it stays inside him,
the hugely never of Nevada. The lattice
between the species begins to curve.
It coats his lungs. He begins his tour of duty,
flicks on the computer, the only window
in the operation room, eye of the new bird
which has none. He sleeps with his own half open,
holding the bird with his invisible string,
as if the war were not unkind. The casualties—
what is a casualty if not swallowed
by its facelessness—the digital idea of death
comes flapping across the water. The blood
can be viewed from a satellite, the way that
mourning spills immediately through the minus
sign, through the semblance of a bowl.
In the dream you have given me
you’re standing on a raft
in the middle of a lake—
it’s not so hard to fall in love
with you. You’re holding
my latest X-ray, asking
have I been sleeping okay?
I know you think I’m one of them,
they woke to slow erasures,
but honestly I’m fine.
Here I am, under my perpetual
umbrella, raising a glass to how
I’m lagging. The boys
are breaking into foam again,
as if their bodies were also
your invention. Your instructions
were easy enough to follow—
you hid them at the bottom of the lake.
This restlessness is a weather
neither one of us can describe.
If you look close enough,
the opposite of desire begins
to shiver. You’re holding it
in your hands. The sky takes off
its roundness and I’m swimming
towards it and you’re not
and I won’t when I belong.
If I were to be blindfolded you
could speak to me. To begin,
press your head against a window.
Erase the words I have written there
with your hair and your
saliva. I am waiting for it.
How the rain regrets nothing,
each window is a breath
I offer you. A prayer
is nobody else’s
A winged mournful
braiding north or nothing in
to want. The sky
another word for elsewhere.
The sun is doing some damage,
said Leslie, but all doing
comes back to zero. The people
who live behind the newspapers
don’t live there anymore.
The light erases
headlines from the sleep
of those who sleep
in their vocabulary.
Did you ever live there,
the people I wanted you
to be? My friend the historian
taught me your name but
there was too much static
on the telephone. Can I call you
Palimpsest? I am your friend,
my words are bent and
illegible. The ghosts
cross Balboa Street
in clean diagonal lines.
All wet things
concede to gravity. See
that lady adjusting her ponytail
in the reflection of the bus shelter.
That young man
who walked around the block,
I used to sell him groceries,
and that woman
is she his mother?
And now the traffic
gets in the way. Our faces
fit so perfectly inside a square
and the banners go floating
up in yellow. The body’s
there is a concrete groove chewed into us. river. as if us were
I have put off my garment, how shall I put it on?1 pronoun as if
we might touch it by rolling down the window. the surface
pins its name
on each approaching gesture. and were not ashamed. land:
a place to land.
a channel for water to be water but less than flood. it steals
the gray from scarp.
color of emptiness. and grinds it. arrow to never the flora
of traffic. particulates
of ash. how like a confession. it shows the sky our daily
hunger and our
aimlessness. we believed our city a sad acknowledgment
of water’s brevity.
the muck of it. you were naked in the sight of all. the peril
of being water
under so much so soon. fire. more naked than gravity.
we pulled it
over our head. the stain of who was fledgling. as if we
slipped into our body
the moment it was occupied. the moment it was river.
as if the precedent
returned and thickened into somehow. fire reveals so little
of its surroundings.
for a while we wore it around our neck. and were not ashamed.
than the mind in us. could it be the least human part of us.
how beauty lacks
intention and this is why the body. you were naked. as if a kite
above the mind. the doctrine of a well-considered life.
for nothing perceivable
was handed over to us.2 coiled arrows of craving. of river
to be river.
ground beneath the ground harbored the string of it. the weeds
pushed through their bright.
you were naked in the sight of all. their levitating streaks of
our hand went up and down. a kind of pulley. the red proof
as if we stepped out of the body in us. which is always the color
of lights in certain cities.
the creature in us. for nothing perceivable was handed over to us.3
we pulled it over
our head. a key attached to red elastic. stiff white towel. bottle
a sacrament. you were led to the holy pool. again and again. it leaves
an indelible seal.
it cannot be repeated say the fathers. but what of the myriad
inside the fiction
of skin. the envelope. those things, which were done by you
in the inner chamber.
total immersion of the myriad. each the other’s bishop.
peeling off its feathers. an arrow to never the wrongness.
our body was clothed
in a color that could only be removed in sex. the ghost in us
1.Except where indicated, all quotes in italics are taken from Cyril of Jerusalem, “On the Mysteries of Baptism,” c. 350 AD.
2.St. John Chrysostom to Matthew, speech 82, 4, c. 390 AD.