The Soul

The shaft of narrative peers down.
The soul's a petrified fleck of partridge this October. 
Mud-spattered, it thinks it's brush, it thinks 
it's one with the brush when God aims 

just below its feathers. It's too late to raise the soul, 
some ossified conceit we use to talk about deer 
as if we were deer, to talk about the sun, as if the cold 
autumn light mirrored our lover asleep in the tub. 

Nevertheless, I want to talk about it. Those scarred bodies 
on the hospital table, they're white chalk children use 
to deface the sidewalk. The deer fed in the gazebo, 
where the salt lick was barely safe from the fox. 

And when the wind didn't drag my scent to her,
I sat listless, half-awake, and watched her hunger 
surpass her timidity. I should have been changed. 
I should have been startled into submission 

by a very white light, I should have shed my misgivings 
as her tongue made that sticky sound on the lick
and two startled animals stared into what St. Francis
called a mystery. I should bring her back, the woman too, 

the woman who what why words fail me here. 
I should sanctify the hospital gown as it slides down
the tunnel of the catscan, to see where 
the nodules have spread into the thin, pliable tissues 

we call the innards in animals, because they dwell 
in scenery, they're setting for the poem, they provide 
a respite from the subject who's been probed and lacerated,
who's been skinned and eaten away by the story 

when I'm beguiled by the music the hooves made
on the pine floor. I can bring her back, can't I,
I'm bringing him back, the hero who was close enough 
so I could watch what was inside his face hover and scatter. 

"The Soul," from Barter by Ira Sadoff, published by the University of Illinois Press. Copyright © 2003 by Ira Sadoff. Used by permission.