Why I Don’t Mention Flowers When Conversations with My Brother Reach Uncomfortable Silences

- 1978-
Forgive me, distant wars, for bringing
flowers home.
         —
Wisława Szymborska

In the Kashmir mountains,
my brother shot many men,
blew skulls from brown skins,
dyed white desert sand crimson.

What is there to say to a man
who has traversed such a world,
whose hands and eyes have
betrayed him?

Were there flowers there? I asked.

This is what he told me:

In a village, many men
wrapped a woman in a sheet.
She didn't struggle.
Her bare feet dragged in the dirt.

They laid her in the road
and stoned her.

The first man was her father.
He threw two stones in a row.
Her brother had filled his pockets
with stones on the way there.

The crowd was a hive
of disturbed bees. The volley
of stones against her body
drowned out her moans.

Blood burst through the sheet
like a patch of violets,
a hundred roses in bloom.

My Brother At 3 AM

He sat cross-legged, weeping on the steps
when Mom unlocked and opened the front door.
     O God, he said, O God.
           He wants to kill me, Mom.

When Mom unlocked and opened the front door
at 3 a.m., she was in her nightgown, Dad was asleep.
     He wants to kill me, he told her,
           looking over his shoulder.

3 a.m. and in her nightgown, Dad asleep,
What's going on? she asked, Who wants to kill you?
     He looked over his shoulder.
           The devil does. Look at him, over there.

She asked, What are you on? Who wants to kill you?
The sky wasn't black or blue but the green of a dying night.
     The devil, look at him, over there.
           He pointed to the corner house.

The sky wasn't black or blue but the dying green of night.
Stars had closed their eyes or sheathed their knives.
     My brother pointed to the corner house.
           His lips flickered with sores.

Stars had closed their eyes or sheathed their knives.
O God, I can see the tail, he said, O God, look.
     Mom winced at the sores on his lips.
           It's sticking out from behind the house.

O God, see the tail, he said, Look at the goddamned tail.
He sat cross-legged, weeping on the front steps.
     Mom finally saw it, a hellish vision, my brother.
           O God, O God, she said.

Skin-Light

My whole life I have obeyed it—

            its every hunting. I move beneath it
            as a jaguar moves, in the dark-
                          liquid blading of shoulder.

The opened-gold field and glide of the hand,

            light-fruited, and scythe-lit.

I have come to this god-made place—

           Teotlachco, the ball court—
           because the light called: lightwards!
                        and dwells here, Lamp-land.    
          
           We touch the ball of light
           to one another—split bodies stroked bright—
                        desire-knocked.
                                    Light reshapes my lover’s elbow, 
  
           a brass whistle.

I put my mouth there—mercy-luxed, and come, we both,

           to light. It streams me.
           A rush of scorpions—
                        fast-light. A lash of breath—
                                    god-maker.
      
           Light horizons her hip—springs an ocelot
           cut of chalcedony and magnetite.
                       Hip, limestone and cliffed,

slopes like light into her thigh—light-box, skin-bound.

           Wind shakes the calabash,
           disrupts the light to ripple—light-struck,
                       then scatter.
 
This is the war I was born toward, her skin,

           its lake-glint. I desire—I thirst—
           to be filled—light-well.
 
The light throbs everything, and songs

           against her body, girdling the knee bone.
           Our bodies—light-harnessed, light-thrashed.
                       The bruising: bilirubin bloom,
                                    violet.

A work of all good yokes—blood-light—

           to make us think the pain is ours
           to keep, light-trapped, lanterned.
                       I asked for it. I own it—
                                    lightmonger.

I am light now, or on the side of light—

           light-head, light-trophied.
           Light-wracked and light-gone.

           Still, the sweet maize—an eruption
           of light, or its feast,
                       from the stalk
                                    of my lover’s throat.

And I, light-eater, light-loving.

From the Desire Field

I don’t call it sleep anymore.
             I’ll risk losing something new instead—

like you lost your rosen moon, shook it loose.

But sometimes when I get my horns in a thing—
a wonder, a grief or a line of her—it is a sticky and ruined
             fruit to unfasten from,

despite my trembling.

Let me call my anxiety, desire, then.
Let me call it, a garden.

Maybe this is what Lorca meant
             when he said, verde que te quiero verde—

because when the shade of night comes,
I am a field of it, of any worry ready to flower in my chest.

My mind in the dark is una bestia, unfocused,
             hot. And if not yoked to exhaustion

beneath the hip and plow of my lover,
then I am another night wandering the desire field—

bewildered in its low green glow,

belling the meadow between midnight and morning.
Insomnia is like Spring that way—surprising
             and many petaled,

the kick and leap of gold grasshoppers at my brow.

I am struck in the witched hours of want—

I want her green life. Her inside me
in a green hour I can’t stop.
             Green vein in her throat green wing in my mouth

green thorn in my eye. I want her like a river goes, bending.
Green moving green, moving.

Fast as that, this is how it happens—
             soy una sonámbula.

And even though you said today you felt better,
and it is so late in this poem, is it okay to be clear,
             to say, I don’t feel good,

to ask you to tell me a story
about the sweet grass you planted—and tell it again
             or again—

until I can smell its sweet smoke,
             leave this thrashed field, and be smooth.