Cancer Poem In Him Were Hid­den All Our Tongues

The Iowa Review - - CONTENTS - G.C. Wal­drep

I was a child there. And milk taught me how to draw with a war in my hand. I felt God as a nerve run­ning through the copper sky.

The trees sang to it, espe­cially the oaks that guarded win­ter’s al­tars. Ev­ery­one was afraid of time’s groin, against which the town rubbed up

when­ever the moon lost at snow. My breath was a glass in­side of which a sin­gle blos­som hung. Friend­ship viewed me as prey,

a dead calm af­flict­ing the hos­pi­tals built on the site of an an­cient wheel. Who has the magic hand that will il­lu­mi­nate

the stub­born light in­side a snail’s shell? No one had died but those we loved, those we’d sent away from us that we might grasp the blind fal­con

by its jet, Sephardic talons. Tubes were fit­ted into our worst art through which the glory-salt em­anated. There was a brief pe­riod

dur­ing which all the wounded bore the same name, a sin­gle let­ter re­moved from my own.... As a child I played at the edge of a veil,

I counted the ac­ci­dents that did not hap­pen be­neath the bank’s

per­cus­sive shadow. Now night lures night’s Philadel­phias

to the tips of my chest, where they burn. Thus I am stripped of mercy’s caul, I am laid open to love’s blue braid

and the town is my Lu­cifer bear­ing its lame sine-vow be­fore it. What makes the an­i­mals an­i­mals is that they don’t fear los­ing

you. O Fa­ther, I would burst into coal for You, I would darken— Let honey’s rude pe­riph­ery tune the land’s gui­tar, its anti-psalm.

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