43 E 18

Who would I be if I could kiss what Francis praised
as God's flowers? Could I caress my finger over
maggoty wounds or mouth joyously the offal of pigs?
Who would I be if I could relish the wounds of war,
its bodies whose pieces stink in the sun? What saint
might I become who could catch as perfume the rot
of even my own brother lately killed? And then touch
the running white jellies of death driven birds? If I
were to bend down over bunkers and see who lay
there were truly dead; If I could stand beside your
body bag and smell escaping methanes and imagine
the shape of your flesh puckered with that white-hot
willy peter fire that shocked you in the distant La Cua night:

could I then make hymns to the careless
divinity who authorizes this pain and this death?

Could I sing any song which praises
the heartless god who kills and hurts
as well as makes, and gives suck?

Truly when I see life's constant warfare in myself
I am afraid. I wake on moonless midnights shaking
that even I shall not be, for sure I shall not be:
so touched that I must get up and run until the images fade.

And yet, as I leap over that terror, as I step beyond
his hurts and my hurts, I glimpse (it is only
for the instant) that the supernovas of death-in life,
the making of pain in pleasure, are circled and
radiated with that odd cool comfort that is both
inside and beyond, which lets me sing:

Createdness is the storm; is the cold
killing sea; is the soft hands of the rain;
was the unimaginable horror of that war;
is the laughing and playing of little children,
and the peace and order and harmony
of countless houses as well as his
death memorialized on a night-black marble slab

reviewed by us whose lips are pulled
thin in grief's straight back line.

Now let me face squarely the fright mask
the tooth and the leopard sword who makes
a life that to have life must eat life; whose
burning mouth swallows all but to give
pointless death-driven birth again and again.

Dear brother.

When I do not fear either pain or death I can sing:
"I am safe! You take comfort! We are safe!
For this universe is glorious and kind!"

But this only as we march beyond fear.

Good night.

And then in those precious instants
you may see me stretching up quite tall.
The song breaks forth unaccountable.

And then for that moment is my name Francis!
because comes the gift of grace that I attend to
as I attend to the forgetting of the sole of my foot as I sleep.

Good night my sweet brother!

The immaculate white of my seeing
glimpses nothing and all, gleaming glad
against the furious star cracks of night.

Heaven Bone, The Magazine of New Age Poetry, Chester, New York

The Pulpsmith, New York, 1986

Steven Fortney

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