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Litany

For J.B. Harlan

1

My love, is it the devil or the saints

that lead you back into your faith

when, all along, the reason

why you came was your

mute and blazing

craving for forgiveness —

a love of confession —

when we come from

sin in the first place

(and have run that race

to emerge golden,

glorious, victorious)?

At least for now,

you carry your religion

less like a blanket

and more like a silenced gun.

2

I want to say I do not wonder if

you miss me. I want to say I’ve lost

track of the days since we last spoke,

since I felt your rough hands land

on my back as your fingers would find

lines of divine electricity alive in my spine.

I want to say I do not recall how many

weeks have passed since you last

kissed me. I want to ignore the time

that’s poured through my front door;

how many shoes in the hall, discarded,

or how many men; how many times

I’ve wished it was you, instead.

I don’t know, anymore, the names of

stars that slip by like good wine, the nights

gone since either of us called you mine.

I want to say that there is no love

for you left in either my heart or my

head, but we both know I’d be lying.

I want to say I could not place your

taste if I tried, but I dine on reveries

of you still by my side.

3

[I am not sure, cannot be sure:

do you still love me anymore?]

You leave me shipwrecked

on honey-dewed honeymoon shores

to build a boat of pictures

I’ve always seen before,

bittersweet, moaning:

“I still adore you, honey;

don’t forget the second door:

newly expectant of its own

closing, newly driven

towards exploding. Without

your bones to warm this form,

I am pale and poor and cold.”

4

I am brushing my moving

lips, currant-red, against

the leaden pages of scripture.

I am yearning for your flesh

instead. I long to be pure.

I lay my coarse belief to bed.

I am led by impassioned

communions. You know how

well my hymns can soothe.

I let their rhythms summon you.

I invoke Thee,

Spirit,

Love,

Truth;


I invoke Thee,

Mistress and Master,

Father and Mother.


I invoke Thee,

Muse.

5


Part of our glory

always rested in ceremony.

6


Honey, does she know

all the things you told me?

Has she heard all

your golden stories?

[ I sip Water

and spit Ore. ]

Perhaps I thought you’d never

find our love a bore. Perhaps

it caught the charcoal, the tinder,

the kindling strewn about my soul,

then coaxed a bonfire from my core.

Maybe I still hear the cinders spark

and pop. Maybe I wish I could stop

seeing the sick replaying of

that perfect, silly, awful evening

when you stopped speaking

only to drop to one knee —

on piebald grass beneath some

gangly churchyard tree — in

sweating cobblestone streets — and more! —

upon my filthy townhouse floor —

to drop to one knee

and ask if you could

marry me —

and I said yes,

but I am weeping.

7

Maybe that’s where I

stored up my belief

and am now left with

only sacrificial meaning.

8


These days,

when I pray,

I wonder if anyone

hears me. I wonder

if anything’s still

listening.

I’ve learned to create

my own plagues.

9

Your quiet is hounding

me. Haunted, I scream:

“It is you, honey, it is you

and not your phantom

that I need.”

Beside you,

I found my

Holy City.

In me

once beat

a trinity.

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