You need me like ice needs the mountain On which it breeds. Like print needs the page. You move in me like the tongue in a mouth, Like wind in the leaves of summer trees, Gust-fists, hollow except for movement and desire Which is movement. You taste me the way the claws Of a pigeon taste that window-ledge on which it sits, The way water tastes rust in the pipes it shuttles through Beneath a city, unfolding and luminous with industry. Before you were born, the table of elements Was lacking, and I as a noble gas floated Free of attachment. Before you were born, The sun and the moon were paper-thin plates Some machinist at his desk merely clicked into place.
I would have liked then for someone to touch me
So I could know the purpose of this hardship.
Black-eyed and impassive as a canyon,
From the hive of my mind, I looked at their faces
As I moved between rows of espaliered pears.
I only intended for someone to show
Me, once, an affection like the sun
Shows even the simplest bulb, entering what’s hidden.
Let me show them instead the picture
In a knife’s reflection, take down my hair
Where the gravedigger kneels among new potatoes.
Behind my teeth are headstones, and behind those
Skeletons of cavemen, of dinosaurs,
And under my skin: alphabets, alphabets
In black ink, a legacy of histories tiny and alive
As an ant army marching toward forever.
Understand, please—I, too, have a splendid use,
This world could not get rid of me if it wanted to.