Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


That Been to Me My Lives Light and Saviour

Purse be full again, or else must I die. This is the wish 
the trees in hell’s seventh circle lacked, bark ripped by monstrous dogs,
bleeding from each wound. We see them languid there,
the lightened purse a demon drug. Less, less.

At the canal, the dog loops trees in a figure eight — 
a cacophony of insects under sun. A man against a tree nods off.

Let there be no sandwich for the empty purse.
Let there be no raiment for someone skint.
Let blood run out, let the currency remove.
Let that which troubles trouble not.

My father in the driveway. Legs splayed behind him. Pail beside him.
Sorting handfuls of gravel by shade and size. One way to calm
a pecker, compensate for stash. Dad! I lied.

The man shifts by the tree and now grace is upon him.
The slant of sun picks up the coins dropped by travelers and — lo! — 
grace enables him to see. The demon dog fresh off an eight barks, too,
standing, struck by the man, by the coins, barks at their glare;
the man reaches in scrim at the glint in the light and thinks Another
malt. The flesh is willing, the spirit spent,
                                                   the cloud passes over — 
relief is not what you think, not the light. Regard the barking
dog now tugging at the dead man’s leg becoming bark.

You be my life, you be my heart’s guide,
you be the provision providing more,
you be the blood — stanch the sore! — 
you be failing 
                          proportion (mete) . . .  

Steward of gravel squints up at the girl who is me.
What? defensively. Out of the east woods, a foaming raccoon spills.
Palmolive executive? Palmolive customer? Palm’s stony olives
                              on the embankment of limestone or soapstone or
shale. Leg of the man clamped in the dog’s mouth. Mouth
of the man open and unmoved. Voice of the man:

Three dolls sat within a wood, and stared, and wet when it rained
into their kewpie mouths. They were mine to remonstrate to the
trees at large, the catalpas and the fir, the sugar maples in the
glade turning gold. To each is given, one doll began, so I had
to turn her off. Consider how it was for me — 

Flash of the arrow and the foam falls down. Three balletists 
ignoring pliés bound onto the long lawn and its canalward
slope. I am underwater and they haze in the light, 
                                                                      mouth
but do not sound. In the arrow’s blink they start.

Decimal as piercing of the line — 
Table as imposition of the grid — 
Sum as heuristic apoplex — 
Columns in honeysuckle cents — or not.

Just this transpired. Against a tree I swooned and fell, and
water seeped into my shoe, and a dream began to grow in me.
Or despair, and so I chose the dream. And while I slept,
I was being fed, and clothed, addressed — as though awake
with every faculty, and so it went. Then: blaze, blare of sun
after years uncounted, and synesthesia of it and sound,
the junco’s chirp and then the jay’s torn caw, arc
of trucks on the distant interstate, your what the fuck
and then her call. Beside me, pinned to a green leaf,
in plastic and neat hand, a full account. I had indeed still
lived, and been woke for more. So, weeping then, I rose.

Credit


Reprinted from Ledger, published by the University of Iowa Press.

Author


Susan Wheeler

Author Susan Wheeler has published several collections of poetry and a novel

Date Published: 2005-01-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/been-me-my-lives-light-and-saviour