FLASHES IN ALL DIRECTIONS Who is responsible for the terrible times I’ve laughed — when someone else’s child fell from a chair at my table, when I learned about the faultless boy Life-Flighted off the football field or what nuclear fission can do? When I parked by a wood I’d never walked before and I saw the fence binding its twenty acres, and its unlocked turnstiles — one entry, one exit — radiating bars eight feet high, and its rows of barb wire above the fencing, tilted in — not to keep any climbers out of, but to keep them inside, this FENCED NATURE AREA, as the signage read — I laughed and pushed my way in. The pearlescent light of a low winter sun getting lower made the chain-link glint and trees stood spray-painted with the usual suspects of hearts, PEACE, a penis, initials, pluses. One trunk said, I SEE YOU, a forest spirit turned panopticon, like the fiery sword that flashes in all directions outside the garden needing guarded since the day God went for a walk in his woods and found a man and a woman trying to hide everything, and asked them my favorite question God ever asked: “Who told you that you were naked?” It always makes me laugh.
ELSA IN THE MAW after Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade An otherworldly goldleaf light that sparks uncanny thirst still saturates the Grail when she takes hold of it and starts to run. Which opens up the earth that will give her one more chance, knowing, it seems, by the slant of its chasms, she’ll fail and fall within. When Indiana says Give me your other hand, honey, I can’t hold you he’s trying to say he believes she can be saved. He thinks. He’s actually not sure. The last time I went to Mass I went alone and pregnant and the priest stopped by my side on his way down the aisle, during the recessional hymn hardly anyone sings. I don’t usually see you by yourself. He patted my shoulder. No tears, no tears today. And I grew more enraged: Yes, today. Yes, tears today. I didn’t say it, couldn’t speak. It was just after the reports and everything beloved in my church looked criminal, complicit in the sins, even being there. And what could be sufficient, what can save it from itself, as is? Somewhere Elsa’s body is buried in Lucasfilm dry ice, and that chalice down there with her, if we imagine past the end, inside the hellishness that hangs around the holy places.
THE MOTHER’S STOMACH, A KIND OF TREE that grew with such an unchecked reach it looks like a wolf about to leap, on prey or pups ventured from the den too soon. Each branch a crux becoming other crosses, knots, nooks, bulges of elbow ache or pilonidal clefts. Its bark still wants to stretch towards every claw or wing or mandible that left its nests, and its limbs paunchy all year with autumn. And when it lies on its side in bed, what a face it makes! When she breathes, it breathes too. Of those who loved this body when it was uncut paper, she thinks of you. Of some scenario: your torso back with hers, nervous to move. You fill your hands and call it beautiful.