I realized everything I was doing must have been Death. It was Christmas or Labor Day—a holiday—and every time you turned on the radio they said something like “four million” or “going to die”
I’m trying on egos, [a justification for the planet’s continuance]. Oh
hello transgressor, you’ve come to collect utilitarian debts, humbling
narrative space. Give me a condition and wheatgrass,
I his body is disintegrating, I his body is ossification. Death my habit
radius, yeah yeah.
I his body can’t refuse this summons. I can’t get out
this fucking room. Tell me something different about torture
Tell me about the lightness my mother told me to pick the one i love the best
how it signals everything I ever wish to believe true just holy on my ship.
I jump all over this house. this is it [what i thought is thought only,
nothing more deceptive than]:
I his body keeps thinking someone will come along, touch me.
As like human. Or lima bean.
I’m cradling you to my breast, you are looking out. A little wooden lion you & Peter carve
on Bluff Street is quieting across your cheekbone. Not at all like the kind of terror found
in sleep, on trembling grounds.
It is yesterday now. I have not had a chance to dance in this century. Tonight I shall kill someone,
a condition to remember Sunday mornings.
To think of lives as repetitions [rather than singular serial incarnations]. To understand your
death is as exacerbating as trying to figure out why as schoolchildren in mid-nineteen-sixties
we performed reflexive motions:
cutting out lace snowflakes, reading Dick and Jane search for their missing mittens,
And this too, fiction. The book I would want to right.
The restored fallen, heroic.
Did you expect a different grace from the world? Or upon exit?
I’m working on “tough.” They think I am already. All ready.
Who is the dead person? Is “I’m sorry” real to a dead person?
Browning grass. My hands on this table. A contentious century.
A place to pay rent. Redemptive moments.
Am I now the dead person?
Dead person, dead person, will you partake in my persimmon feast?
The body inside the body astounds, confesses sins of the funhouse.
I too have admired the people of this planet.
Their frilly, ordered intellects.
The use they’ve made of cardamom,
radiation as well. How they’ve pasteurized milk, loaned surnames to stars,
captured tribes, diseases, streets, and ideas too.
From A Toast in the House of Friends by Akilah Oliver. Copyright © 2009 by Akilah Oliver. Used by permission of Coffee House Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.