The Iowa Review

Cancer Poem In Him Were Hidden All Our Tongues

- 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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