Love in the Mines of Harlan
I move past you, back into a history
of me: narcissist theory drips from my
lips, a harlequin fountain, for I have been
listening again to the raven’s stories
and taken them literally, dancing
doused in the sort of belief
fools use to brush their teeth:
frail, blind, and cunning.
I am wondering, and then
I am running. I tire of your mystery.
Pale as daylight, I stun your eyes at birth
of night. I become as Aesop’s daughter,
slow my gallop to a stop. Birch trees
form a copse before me, a veil of leaves,
folktale-green. You see me question
your third coming. Still you watch as
I walk down rails robed in morning
glories, a resurrection of violet, of rust
and wood planks blackened by age.
I, too, am dressed in a fine attempt
at Sunday’s best. I aim to follow
any path laid in my way. I take
the trail of tracks through the mouth
of abandoned mineshaft whose cave
walls glint with fillings. My mountains
call out a mourning song as warning,
as a tryst or gift, a late lament. I wail
back blessings as the sky, restless,
dives into another change.
My tunnel and I are buried
beneath a funeral of forest.
Birdsong plays at Echo, exclaims
and chatters with the dead clatter
of picks and chains. I am hollow;
I am wading through the dark again.
In yellow silk, I am a spark, a doomed
canary, clipped and hemmed in
by cage and fate and precious ore.
Stripped of soaring, I sustain myself
with need and rage, with danger, with a swift
breed of bitterness. My throne rises over
a carpet of shit-stained lace.
I hum the news. I pace.
I am a story you chose to stop
reading halfway-through, no matter
how much truth I contained — no matter
my lyric nature, no matter when my language
digs at you like nails into a shoulder blade. I
crave the trip your fingertips take as they turn me;
they rip through my page. Tape me up or
cut me down; rearrange me into a series
of scenes void of cause or epilogue. Make
me a failed charge, a sidewalk that leads only,
absurdly, to an empty lot where
you remember me as a garden.
I will be the thought never caught
by the agile tip of your tongue — every song
you’ve never sung — a bizarre hunger.
I am the rush of drugs through blood.
I am a guitar string never handled,
a star fanning out from bedroom candle.
I am all you love
and refuse to touch.
I search for a pardon, bound
by the bombs of Bloody Harlan. I will
go down like a burning moth:
hysterical and smudged with charcoal.
I will walk until I bleed, until fatigue
drops me to my knees, until
I forget you, darling, or find me.
I am hardened by loss and dust.
I know no better wanderlust.
I cough and sputter as I travel
farther. I breathe in gunpowder and exhale
the screams of murdered miners.
I whisper into your ear the names
of babes I never mothered.
I reach up to smother my flame.