August, 1953

- 1953-
A nurse gathers up the afterbirth. My mother
    *
had been howling but now could sleep.
    *
By this time I am gone—also gathered up
    *
& wheeled out. Above my jaundiced face the nurses hover.
    *
Outside, a scab commands a city bus. The picketers battle cops
    *
& ten thousand Soviet conscripts in goggles
    *
kneel & cover their eyes. Mushroom cloud above the Gobi,
    *
& slithering toward Stalin's brain, the blood clot
    *
takes its time. Ethel Rosenberg has rocketed
    *
to the afterlife, her hair shooting flame. The afterbirth
    *
is sloshing in a pail, steadied by an orderly who curses
    *
when the elevator doors stay shut: I am soul & body & medical waste
    *
foaming to the sewers of St. Paul. I am not yet aware
    *
of gratitude or shame.
                                I do know the light is everywhere.

More by David Wojahn

Spirit Cabinet [excerpt]

. . . 

& how, o spirits, shall I invoke you, who cannot count himself
    among the chosen?
My writings & keenings are interior & treated by appropriate
    prescription drugs,

to whom my conversion is incomplete, for some days I devote myself
    solely to my dead
& in my error I do seek them & do wail. From the wire mesh
    I glimpse the chalk marks,

aflicker on a kind of slate. Here is the glyph of patchouli-smell,
    graven on a scarf
or silken dress. & here the character for a chin nicked while shaving,
    stubble edging a dime-sized birthmark,

. . . 

Sawdust

Coming always from below, blade wail & its pungency

          *

laddering up toward my childhood room, my nostrils

          *

sick-sweet with it. Below he worked his grave machines,

          *

tintinnabulous their whirr & snarl.

          *

His face in sawdust spray: sweat beads

          *

nacreous & a pollen lather, canary yellow.

          *

Resinous the wood where he’s entombed.

          *

Resinous the wood, who rises spectra

          *

this morning with the saber saws, churning the house

          *

they’re building down the street below my study,

          *

latticework beams. Sawdust visage flaring, ceremonial mask

          *

lifted down from the ill-lit gallery

          *

& placed by him upon my face. Eye-slits for sight,

          *

bright gash for speech, two raw nail holes for scent.