Rising from the stone bed with the earliest bell, the ascetic
places the bowl on the window ledge and begins to sweep out
the small cell, my body. I start to miss the thousands of miles
of veins railroaded through my continent, the golden spike
and all the dead laborers of my disfigured country-boy form.
But the sweeping continues—a clean slate, as they say
whenever someone’s mother dies and that someone finally finishes
her play, covering all of Manhattan in charcoal and mourning gauze
and long troughs of violet rainwater at dawn. Across America,
I climb over barbed-wire to breathe steam right from a bison’s nostrils—
for that moment, I feel like everyone felt in the time and place
where everyone who felt it is finally dead: inconsequential, free.
I spent the years of my youth as a library. I checked out one book
every day, returned nothing, till I was just shelves and a clerk
holding a rubber stamp like it was the shrunken head of a friend
no one had seen in years, and goddamn if that wasn’t some reunion.
That was before my week with East of Eden. You know the part
where Adam’s fixing up the farm and planting roses for Cathy?
I love that part—before she shoots him—when he’s full of purpose,
but we all know it’s no good: hopeless, luckless, terrible, and still
he goes on living, riding pain like a raft with no edges on a shoreless ocean.
My neighbor raised the bison for meat: burgers, some steaks, jerky.
But it’s not the materials that matter—oh, how fully a heart can be broken
with stupid, fucking lettuce. And in some copies, you can’t even read
the last two pages for the tearstains. I’m beginning to see
why I did not become a successful ethnobotanist.
Not a bare room at all, maybe my body is a garden—not Edenic—no,
more like the Reno Association of Horticulturalists’ native plants garden:
some mountain mahogany, a few resilient wildflowers,
but mostly juniper and wild sage learning to break the sun apart.
On this April morning, snow thin as linen across the landscape,
the pasture grass still so short, I watch from the fence-line
the slow motion of the pickup as our neighbor pushes hay from the bed
in thick flakes which, on the ground seem to turn brown, furry,
stand up on stocky legs, wobble slightly, open eyes—big and dark,
like twin planets we’ll never visit, not in this life.