The Iowa Review

In Him Were Hidden All Our Tongues


Cliffside, NC, 2015

Abide with me. Zion is wasted and these mowers move each like an abandoned church across this grass-scape, replete in their genitals. Magnolia-sire, your faith is in my mouth below the ruined Baptist church. I am buying, I am selling, I cannot think for all the roses that have died for me, for me, taking this block wall. This rail. This cracked asphalt. A little higher, a little lower, my friend Theologian, borne up on your memorized flood. Inside the frame

chapel, a single shadow (white) and another shadow (black) and all along a single bell, canted and ringing. This is not about responsibi­lity. This is not about the post office, the Masonic lodge so extant they repel the sun. There is always a point of entry into the church of the body, which is sometimes furnished, sometimes not. Imagine the arms of the men and women carrying the last flowers from this building masqueradi­ng as my funeral. My dramatis

personae. You see, when a body carries something before it the hands, the tips of the hands move into the future first. And there is a certain looseness, a certain bend to the knee. So you can still send a letter there, suitably franked. Trespass is possible. Replace the houses with trailers and feel if not good about it, then at least strong. Able to wield any tool, to mow in season. Male and female the mowers, scattered now across the apron of the hill. Soon

I will almost remember where I am, the great bruise called Art dredged up from the deep tissues of history, that ravished mirror. My parents said they worked for hours and hours, as if they were guests. “Worked like guests” is what I heard. I could have watched their children playing in the sandpit by the school, but that would have been wrong. Behind the next hill crouches a low building now labeled THE CHURCH OF THE EXCEPTIONA­L

(“For the Physically & Mentally Handicappe­d”), which I am quite sure used to be something else. Pentecosta­l? Wheels within wheels, sing the mowers, chanty-style, but there’s no one to answer, the children having been led blindfolde­d back into the school. I’m not making this up, and I’m not grieving. I have just broken off a blade of palmetto and rolled it between my fingers, which are the future we share, the difference between what is priestly

and what is merely priest. Flowering and unflowerin­g in the heat of the day, its fat, percussive knot. Paint an angry moon on the door if you think it would help. There is not enough marriage imagery in the world of this poem, my lame accountant told me, after the fact. I’d ask the mowers, but they have fled from me now, into the shade of their noonday meal. Set the first gate beneath the night’s jute skin. I have drawn you a map of what

is most fallow within me, where the altars once stood. The time I vaulted the railing to save the boy whose polyester robe had leapt up in flame—and the time I did not. The time I merely watched to see what would happen next. These grasses are what happens next, and the high places from which our lives run down like definition­s, parable and blastocyst and felon. There are no hunters here because it is not the season for hunting. My knowledge takes me this far,

as far as the calluses between forefinger and thumb. Desolate and void the master sang, but so beautifull­y I wanted to follow him. I followed him. And through me passed men and women, their arms all held out, not in supplicati­on or welcome but in the bearing of burdens. Abide with me, O you pretty adoption. I will be your map. I will lift your body. I am gathering the grass of you into my arms right now. Don’t listen to the mowers or to the songs their children sing.

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