The Convert Wants Wounds, Not Scars

The wound on her lip goes white
before returning red.

The virus erupts the lines between chin and
lip, between lip and philtrum.

A sore across two continents of skin, a
bridge of lava.

She will feel healed when the flesh
color returns. The variation

is the aberration. Blood courses to
deliver a clot. Vessels

bouquet under the scalp or in the
womb, in places where we

heal fastest. Cells scramble
a lean-to scab, a mortar of new skin.

The body wants to draw its
seams together.

But Jesus hangs before the
convert eternally

wounded, eternally weeping
from his gashes.

How to open hers without nails or
thorns? How to measure

heartbeats without seeing blood
heave out its rhythms?

A gush slows under pressure
even as the pulse

goes on. Our lesions take air, our
infections seek sunlight. How to

resist our unwilled mechanisms to
staunch?

We push through the same tear in the
world and leave it sore.

When we come, we come open.

Pick a wound slow to bleed and 
slower to seal. We cream

the scar to fade our atlas of living—what
itched its way to a silver road,

what shadow constellation of pox. The
convert counts Jesus’ wounds.

If you count both hands and both feet, all
lashes and piercings

and the forsaken cry, the number is
higher and lower than anyone’s.

Related Poems

Solemnity

At the mosque’s entrance      3:30 a.m.     Syrian
women beg wearing black gloves.
Your father’s grandmother was Syrian

before the country was ash. 
Before the government turned 
to kill its people.

What incites that internal blaze?
What says       it is me I will take
or not me      but those whom I claim?

We are claimed after meditation. 
We are walking an empty street 
after pretending to play drums.

After I recognize the heather in air
after we swim in a pool surrounded by azaleas
after your mother smiles observing us

after we sleep in her house       fields
of sunflowers. I’m on a bus
watching them sway.     I’m forgetting

the distance       the inevitable loss
I will hold warm as snow whitens the green. 
What will you hold?

What will you see beyond your hands?
Streets lined with jacarandas
that morph to pines     to a self beneath

ice that wolves trample silently? 
Someone still begs.
Someone still believes in our

innate generosity.
You are waiting for me but refuse to say it.
You believe in returns.

You believe in the planet’s roundness.
You believe in gravity’s inaudible assurance.
You believe in what I doubt.

To Be a Good Buddhist Is Ensnarement

The Zen priest says I am everything I am not. 

In order to stop resisting, I must not attempt to stop resisting.

I must believe there is no need to believe in thoughts.

Oblivious to appetites that appear to be exits, and also entrances.

What is there to hoard when the worldly realm has no permanent vacancies?

Ten years I’ve taken to this mind fasting.

My shadow these days is bare. 

It drives a stranger, a good fool.

Nothing can surprise.

Clarity is just questioning having eaten its fill.

Jim Limber in Heaven Writes His Name in Water

You walk through Heaven anywhere to any-

where on that soft green grass    or nowhere it

Don’t matter anywhere you walk a bright

And cool and it’s about    a foot-wide stream of

The cleanest water anywhere with each

Step you take parts the grass beside you

On your left side    if you’re left-handed

And on your right side otherwise just reach

 

Down if you’re thirsty or you’re dirty or

You’re hot    they got the sun in Heaven still

And folks get hot sometimes    me    sometimes I

Walk just to see the stream appear

Sometimes I lead it    through my name    on Earth I couldn’t spell

My name now my great thirst has been revealed to me