Wednesday, September 16, 2009



Dimethyl Sulfoxide is an eager solvent.
It penetrates the skin with such ease
that moments after touching it with your fingers
you can taste it in your mouth: a taste, some say
like garlic; others say like oysters.

It can be used to carry other compounds
into the body. Cyanide, for one; LSD, for another.
Touch this and die. Touch this and see God.

Today I saw you on Morrison Street,
your fingertips meeting your face.
And I thought: joy is like that. It carries
death and wonder under the skin.

In the weak, struggling sunshine of September
I could feel the wanting and delight seep through me.
I could taste it on the sides of my tongue.
I wonder what your name is. I wonder
what payload I am carrying.


The rain started today. First the air became wet,
kissing my face,
and then the droplets found anchors in
the threadwork of my arms. By evening
the streets were wet with drifting rain,
and not a drop had fallen from the sky.

We breathe it in, this ghost rain,
like corpse-dust. Another form of joy:
another witchery. We know water so well
we don't think of it as solvent.
But it dissolves iron nails and houses,
ruins books and wooden floors. We see its
white precipitate swirling around a streetlight
and we say how pretty. We see its solid
split hale trees down the middle and leave them broken,
we see it lay street and sidewalk under curses
of unwalkability: but we never learn.
We breathe the water into our lungs.


But listen: this is indirection. I am trying to
find directions out. Teasing. As if I could want
anything else. The blinds lay lines of sun
across your face and draw
tattoos of light across your cheek. I am helpless.
Touch this and die. Touch this and see God.

Death by pneumonia is death by drowning:
what is death by love? Under the awning
you wait uncertainly, and huddle your summer coat
over your shoulders. You turn to the shop window,
and your fingertips meet your face.

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