by Josie Sigler
O You With A Spine
O Gondolier pulling me through,
who would work your mouth against this magic of mine,
this dank water & twinned, oared,
O Scarecrow you rise through grass at the roadside, Crucifix spine,
[who would work your mouth]
O Doctor, these pills dissolved against cotton pocket stained blue, faint, like the first sky
the morning after, Bone column you memorize,
O Dog wearing a sunspot on the floor, Dreaming all the while of something common,
bread rising in a wooden dish on the stove,
O Leper, I have seen
you in marble, I borrow your spares
like light switches that lead to nothing because rain in December
[against this magic of mine]
& the dog wears a sunspot on the floor,
gnaws the bone, O Water boils until the pot scars, O Rafters of the fallen barn
where they used to store their love in grain, I count every grain, O Gondolier
I count your mouths,
O Panhandler, O Heart, don't testify, You will certainly outweigh
a feather, O,
Your mouth a feather, O Feather, I have not stolen
bread, I have not, O Sunspot, O, Crocodile,
O Shepherd, O,
* Italicized Portions from The Book of The Dead of Nes-min.
those who curse horses, who repeatedly fail to tithe,
those who come from the river Lethe hulled with such knives.
those who kill the animals that want to die. As in such love
calls me further, ladle to mouth that I might transmigrate
with no remembrance of the largess on the map of Jupiter,
hurricane of blood & the red wolf's profile, too, an erasure
in the Tennessee hills until evidence of fossil & bounty.
1768, gifted in return for the kill, a field of tobacco &
the problem of hope, as in our spines searched nascent
seams in the night until they fit notch by notch. I stood
before the row of headstones, each the size of a dictionary,
those who never suckle. those who mate for life. those given
to pacing. those who turn their faces to the sky & howl.
those who dream entirely in Matisses, those who travel
deep in the body & find a solitary color, those beyond religion,
Include here Ruth, the hybridization of love's decree & blessed
womb. As in 3) interior, which is to say further toward the center,
also (geog) a town in South Dakota, pop. 77 at the 2000 census,
where the city jail is 12 by 12. Also, Department Of The. As in,
to protect something only until you find gold or the possibility
as in: the boy who clings to the fence at the P.S. on Normandie,
L.A. County, where 98% of children qualify for free lunch.
He knows how precisely we crime what is hunger & the blue,
as in: 8) c. to vanish into. And peter, (naut) the flagged ship carrying
those about to leave port, those with hankies pressed over their mouths,
those hiding in the coalbin, those who were told by history there is
a possibility of escape. But a city will press in on you, especially
in the days after you have your ticket & before the taker clasps it.
That is to say, the blue devils. Both despondency & the capsule
filled with barbiturate amobarbital or its sodium derivative, given
those who realize the ocean is a body. those who looked over The Badlands
& prayed the horses could make it. those who remember the mountains shifting,
their faces before the surgeons came in. Those who see the nameless form
of a woman & love her in the morning, arm beneath a pillow, arching.
those who leave their scent on cloth,
those who are peccable & those chaste & wise.
for example, the pelican, who tore open her breast
to bring her young to life with her own blood,
a living representation of jesus. As in millenery,
let us leave the washstand choked with beauty,
rain in our gullets, the laundry. How after
we've decided on incompatibility & lack
the fucking is so sweet, the sleep in which
forgiveness grows out before me like snow-
melt in the fields of yellow. How research,
the assumption a woman in a distant time
can picture our mourning. Wanton girl,
my mother, wakes in a motel room, 1975,
as in: 1) year of the first predicted quake or
2) the invasion of East Timor. And I grow,
doubling, quadrupling in Florida's heat
& seismic hazard as the whole trembling flock
cupped as you might my breast, after all.
But you are a rusted plow, the stone half-buried.
And how easily we turn the sacred into a token.
Your shirt, thrown over the line, was a trench
in this ocean. And I trembled when I smelled
the pelt of your chest there, the Ghost Dance,
those escapees, those deserters. those who remain yet
in the resigned barracks, pressing their fingers to the wall.
The dragonflies, too, leave their translucent skins.
The Shipfitter Dreams
The shipfitter dreams in perfect ships, hulls mad
with longing jut into blue or mist, depends.
On what you've lost. You think you can't bear it,
each clown uncovers himself in smiles the wider
the sadder. A girl's pulse a bracelet loosening her wrist.
A cup of coffee anywhere in the world on a warm porch,
or maybe yours is different. Your scars. I know that
after the burns small petals as a rose & pink
like I was then. Some evening comfort.
A river reaches up & tangles.
In Minneapolis the bridges like clamps
over the city's open heart stopped for winter.
In Dallas, the heat. You don't want to know Fort Wayne.
Can't know New Orleans. This same friend who saw you fall into love
sees you fall out. Sees you cheat. First thing in the morning
sinks his hands into dough, the baker. Discards the blood
in a long plastic tube, the nurse. Straps on a bomb.
The terrorist is lying, too. The friend who says
nothing is worth this. Everything is.
Josie Sigler's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Sow's Ear Review, The Spoon River Review, MARGIE: The Journal of American Poetry, The Clackamas Literary Review, Cutthroat Magazine, Poet Lore, The Louisville Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, The Chattahoochee Review, Harpur Palate and others. She is pursuing a Ph.D. at The University of Southern California, but she lives on Mount Desert Island, in Maine. She's attempted in her work, as Dorothy Allison says, to "Give some child, some thirteen-year-old, the hope of the remade life," to nourish the covenant of truth that's sustained her thus far.