The Innisfree Poetry Journal
www.innisfreepoetry.org

by Anne Becker


BALLAD OF A THIN MAN

I did--I wrote him once.  A postcard:
gypsy girl in a gauzy wedding dress,
soiled white cardigan buttoned on the bias
        across her small breasts,
photograph of a dead man's face propped
        in the window,
the deceased peering out over her left shoulder,
as if the ramshackle shack she leaned against
was an open casket, as if a house peopled with
        death.
At the end I signed, "St. Annie.  P.S.
You don't need to thank me this time 'again'"
The message read:  "What I miss, what I regret,
is the relationship you used to have with words.
What happened to that sweet chain--pick it up
        again,
it's yours."  I never received a reply--I didn't
expect to, but it was, I thought, something he
        needed to hear--if ever
he was to write again, as he once had, words
        that sang--
Rapt.  Joyous.  Pure.  They were.
(In those few luminous years before rank
        power
overtook him, made him forget words
        don't bow to our command,
how we must wait, must stand perfectly
        empty
so they'll slip gladly into our hands.)
Fish words, even when amputated from the
        iridescent body of song
that spawned them.  (Who else would use
        the word categorize,
that spiderlike word, all angle and web,
        in a love poem--
although he denied it was love--rhyme it
        with crucify?)
Now, when it seems we are all crumbling, cracked
        or decayed--
altered beyond belief--he writes me back,
sends a picture, the perfect picture, one I
        instantly recognize:
tall thin man, lips held tight, his dark
        hair
wreathed in a nimbus of light.


WHAT THE EAR HEARS THE LIPS SING

Of course I would think
we'd be drinking coffee
after we're dead: dig my grave
both long and narrow--

of course a hymn, a gospel
song must take hunger, take
thirst into account: make my
coffee neat and strong--

of course, what else is there
to carry beyond the tomb--our
dirt boat, its green sail: two,
two at my head--

but the dark aroma at
cup's bottom, its bitter taste
balanced by the moon: two,
two at my feet--

sweet wafer--persimmon
velvet--under the tongue, as it
sails us through that final
night.  Never to wake.  Never

to remember that dream.



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