- 1 -
This is about devotion,
the eye that sees everything,
where I put my hands, how I walked
away from you. I heard your watch
ticking, my arms were numb.
I could count each of my steps;
when I looked back, it started raining.
You said, Look at all those
beautiful clouds. This is how air
turns into water, this is where
our prayers turned into conversations.
This is the silt on my shoes.
This is the pool
we are wading through,
this is the portion we are given.
It is dark as ink soaking into a paper napkin,
where I wrote my name and new address.
There is a fountain of tears boiling in the desert.
There is a plaza where I last saw you.
There is time for me to tell you this.
- 2 -
is lost, who
drifting? I am, but
hide behind what keeps us here. The world is ink,
I can't tell you about it. So
who will listen
to your matchstick
Who won't answer your questions?
to me. Did God tell you to break all your dishes?
you know what to do?
Because I don't like what I'm doing.
beautiful God of the desert,
as ink, smooth as skin,
a plum with a pit on a tree,
deaf as a stump and nothing but answers, that
waves an arm: like fish caught in a net,
you, me and the dead are carried snapping aloft. The holy beasts stand
what I'm told. It's what I want to believe.
I say words are mistaken,
God they turn against us and where we want to go,
mean I'm not happy here,
God evades me in this place.
We were in the yard, it was cold outside.
Did you look up at me?
I was speechless, I wanted to be carried
into the sky like
want to believe God will make everything clear. Instead
tells you to breathe, so I'm
you to breathe;
the breath for all these devotions,
let me know.
I ask this in your name.
- 3 -
the barber of devotion,
to forget about breathing,
to your ribcage.
is shaving close
the floor is a
of hair, everything
you don't need.
You look out the window
if it were a waste of time,
it's not, it is as obvious as the alley
have to walk through.
Devotion is a stranger
is a thief in your pocket,
a razor against
man with a gun;
is broken glass and grand larceny,
a puddle in the road, a shattered windshield;
what you slip against,
you're pushed into;
look at the dead
the holy people who get in your car:
they are laughing at you,
when there is nothing you can do
other people's anger,
stranger pulls you out,
you. He says
God is between us.
are always dancing.
you can't keep,
- 4 -
It should be made out of ice.
should melt inside us.
what we want, where we should live the
rest of our lives; this
we are shivering
hold onto this place.
Let God fill my mouth:
will give you my coat.
will invent what I can't keep.
will be a stone building,
gardens and fountains overflowing,
you can stay for weeks
and nothing has to happen,
a language your heart
- 5 -
Devotion is your house on fire.
It already knows how to burn.
It was burning because
waits, once you know this
are in the revolutionary kingdom,
are one step higher;
it's the word
that drives you away from your neighbors,
don't need them.
I am a torment of birds
against the throne of God.
I am on fire
me feed more paper into you.
smoke will lift you up with me.
I will carry you on my shoulders.
will feed you sandwiches.
you can't sleep,
your voice collapses from singing,
I will drizzle honey down
I will build and build and build,
must, I need to, I have no choice,
have no time. I am
out of the sky,
is so much air
it could smother
allow us to burn one minute longer:
you know what you want.
It is as easy as breathing.
have such crippled lungs.
- 6 -
it doesn't belong to you.
follows you around.
you left it. Again and again.
will find it,
will swallow it whole,
will walk all over you,
will swim inside you,
love, this love
can barely stand;
are bending to one side,
we are longing
cares if our words are mistaken, if
arguments turn into prayers, like
and feathers on a dead bird, if
is too much between us.
your mouth and sing.
- 8 -
What are you going
to do about
as a pen writing,
as a nest of hair?
You were having a dream.
There was something you knew
that you can't remember.
You saw a storm of birds
darkening the sky,
God's love reflected in a piece
of broken glass:
you picked it up
because it was yours.
You cut your hand.
You told me, you said,
"we want to go,
get out of this need,
just fall asleep,
carried out of the sky like angels."
a fistful of broken pieces
I can't put back together:
it cuts into my hands
the more I try
to hold onto you.
You said when God tells you to
invent what you can't keep,
you tuck your limbs into
you listen, you never hear.
- 9 -
About all this
breath, should it
come to a stop,
what will you do when
you have to answer for your devotion?
Will you blame it on the India ink,
the broken pen,
the airplanes that darkened the sky?
You forgot how to read, you think God is an abstraction,
you hear this voice,
you can feel the heat of
its breath on you,
"there is no limit
to what I am singing," that voice, it is terrible,
it is bending over us, a flexibility,
you live because you don't deserve to live.
The only freedom
is the freedom from memory.
And you, in your bed, in your dreamy constellations,
you feel a kiss, rasping against your skin,
you're hungry all the time: you imagine how beautiful
everything could be, you are told the secret of
turning broken glass into diamonds,
it calls for a lot of blood:
you wake up with your ears bleeding.
- 10 -
We are here
out of need
we've been eating our anger
like soup, from a chipped bowl, on a crowded, dirty table,
leaning into God, who moves away,
touching the inside of this:
we want to know
who wrecked us,
who left us; what we want
to do is unresolved between
you and me,
all graceful and
slowly backwards, a storm
we watch approaching, breathing out and listening: in this world
that's not going to be here much longer,
we are fish
longing for air,
even when it burns;
we've been learning how to swim for years.
- 11 -
About our longing for oxygen,
this is the heart that wobbles for you.
I don't know what to do with my devotion.
I think about cooking with you last night,
the scent of pepper,
my two hands in the air,
the sink in the kitchen,
breathing, the bumps of your spine.
I want to say
we can lean against each other,
we can listen.
If it isn't music, it could be steady enough
for dancing, it could be held in your hands, it could be
bread, an onion, a sharp knife, and
this could be what we are wading towards,
God is a car full of people
leaning out the windows, riding the sideboards.
There's room for us
if we want to get in, there's a place for us,
it will sustain us.
- 12 -
in the desert with you,
who heard your watch ticking:
where were you
when it was raining up devotion?
It isn't love that has you on
her teeth, up on a rail:
you listen to radio acrobats
but you're not dancing.
And there was a plaza, there was a fountain.
I saw your bones breathing,
I was with you
like a pen writing against your skin;
we ate plums, waved our arms
between the sun and our eyes.
Donna, why do our conversations turn into prayers?
when God says words are mistaken,
who are we leaning against?
There is so much between us,
we can't even reach the inside of it.
God tells us to be cornerstones.
God says all things are possible.
God grants us devotion like a handful of water,
but it has to be full of glass.
We wake up bleeding,
we ask, what
do we do with this?
- 13 -
you rely on blood too much,
try living, try
the empirical kingdom,
try the chocolate cake,
or melt the candy angels,
you rely on
angels too much.
She said take my hands,
hold onto this:
you won't remember
what you're not allowed to keep;
the love of God is a word
that can be written underwater,
that you may write it and write it and write it,
so that it is indelible,
so that it is a tattoo,
a new language
that is impossible to lie with.
She said if you love me
you will write my name.
- 14 -
So this is the second skin,
and we are need all over, we
talk to the dead, turn into prayers,
leaning over in places, into you and me:
I want to tell you everything about devotion,
the bowl of plums,
the saints off balance,
how your hands turn into birds,
the wineglass in a nest of feathers;
when I feel you near me,
I feel like the ocean,
fresh and floating in salt water,
the eye of a whale that
is the size of your fist;
when I see you I hold my breath,
I know in my chest,
in my lungs,
the plums are for us,
we sleep in the possible,
I want to give you
what I'm not allowed to keep.
- 15 -
to the typewriter of devotion,
worn out, off-balance,
it will write on your heart
everything you can't keep,
a new memory,
it will have weight,
but we are made out of tissue paper,
the ink soaks right through.
I want to be graceful.
I want to know where I'm going.
I want God to give me a new set of directions.
I want to know where to put my hands
as I feed more paper into the machine.
I want someone
to say, hold onto this, let me
fill your mouth with smoke,
I know what to do.
My ears could leap off
of my head I'm listening so hard.
I'm bending to one side.
I am trying to understand,
but all I hear is one watch ticking,
the sound of my bones thinning,
the sound of dirt.
- 16 -
Says give yourself up to me.
Says you will see the glory of my throne.
Says the air turns into lightning.
Says the cars bending to one side.
Says the hurricane of my love.
Says you will see my name in words of fire.
Says you will know it, says it was written for you.
Says I need you, says I forgive you, says this is my body,
you are touching the inside of it, your hands stirring up everything.
Says breath and water. Says this is also devotion:
you will roll like a float in the sea,
in drift, here.
Says let this be an undertaking
between us, says
an open book, speaks in words of fire,
Says I am what
is yours, says I am helpless,
says my hands
lies, cupping you.
- 17 -
We are need. So what.
We are moving, we are used to that.
We think we understand our world
as a collection of paper and letters,
piled high, growing larger,
leaning into you
and me, into the words we're not
allowed to repeat, the holy name
worn-out in places;
we're up to our waists, hungry,
waves that push us
off-balance gulping, or else so certain, we
forget how to swim, turn into frogs,
get used to everything,
turn up the heat, turn it up like a master.
We would be casual in it, it would be so easy,
we'd be good, we'd be quiet,
we will boil, like food,
- 18 -
This isn't music, it repeats,
the same words in different orders,
evangelical, like an alarm clock,
a message on your machine:
There are some people God commands.
They look stupid.
You don't see what they're seeing.
Would you rather be innocent?
Would you pour honey
down my throat? Would you let me starve?
You argue, you know what to do,
will you do it?
Will you pay for what you want, even if you
don't know you want it?
All the phone lines are dead.
The yard is full of bees.
You are trying so hard to believe,
you would pull out your tongue
to stop the lying, but it's already fall.
There is too much between us,
we have nothing to talk about.
There are no miraculous airplanes of love,
no angels swooping down to save us,
no wise men looking out for us.
Just smoke rising from the burning leaves.
It's not the words you want to hear
that you have to protect.
- 19 -
Devotion is a fist:
peel back the fingers.
the secret life
can be read into the palm,
the imprint of nails,
what is no longer remembered,
left in the desert,
ants crawling all over.
Not certain anyone
is ever listening, not certain
who will listen?
Who will put it to use? She says I
cannot keep it inside anymore. I
don't care anymore.
I tuck it into myself,
but my hands stick out.
- 20 -
You know nothing,
I'm watching you breathe,
and nothing breaks
that doesn't bring me
as an eye reading
the book of your heart;
it will open, and God
will see the conversations
we wrote in there,
that grew out of need,
the grief that puts us
back where we belong.
- 21 -
happens, we are equal
in these cracking days: in
the teeth, the fish,
the trembling man
and the tiny sky....
If we are falling
out of the world,
like angels wobbling,
if we are so close together,
when we move we
we want to, we want to.
We want to be graceful.
We hold onto this:
there is an ocean around us
and we are going
to wade through it.
We are going to float
upon its surface.
We are going to be
are going to swim,
we don't know
when, but we will.
It has been promised,
it belongs to us:
we will be ships.
- 22 -
In all these years,
we were flying fish,
our mouths were hands, our
lips fingers, we were longing for air.
It was raining, the heavens smeared
in octopus ink, and I couldn't stay.
Because if clouds were simply
water, if it had only lasted a second,
it was the sky full of cranes that made me
think this about you,
it was us in a car
and a feather floating down.
We were driving away, so
who is to say where we were?
We saw God dancing,
and now I don't know
what to do with my hands.
If devotion is a net,
who do I let go?
- 23 -
Devotion is drifting
where you won't listen:
I am always listening.
The sound of your watch keeps me awake,
The watch you found in the desert,
the one you placed on the headboard above me.
I wish this would stop.
I want to break all your dishes.
I smashed each of your glasses,
it didn't help.
We are wading through what we don't want to explain.
It doesn't matter.
When I had a dream I was with you
in your kitchen, when you opened up a jar and showed
me a porcelain egg in a nest of hair,
when it turned into a snake,
when you said this is where
you get what you deserve,
I didn't know what to do with my tears.
I woke up against you, and
there was so much between us,
all I could do was breathe.
- 24 -
Just look at my hands, the ink
under my fingernails;
I'm not a fountain, I forget this all the time.
I stretch my arms out and act like I'm bronze.
I can't predict the future, but when it is raining
I can believe anything.
I can go for a walk and think my bones are full of devotion,
grace drifting and evangelical.
I can claim we are fish longing for air,
that we are moving from need. But here I am,
I'm stuck, I want to be
what I am writing, a fountain,
a storm of birds, a miraculous airplane,
but this is my arthritic mouth, and this is the hand
that clutches, this is what fell
out of the sky when I wasn't looking,
the dead bird that shakes itself
and flies away.
This is devotion. I don't have enough of it. I want to give it away.
I want it to live apart from me.
I want to talk to God about it, I want to compare notes,
I want to break out of language like God can, and be indefinite, and say
the right thing,
to be able to walk out on myself.
Like a new memory to learn, I will learn it, and I will
say it to you, so that it will always be with us,
in our weight, in the way we can move, in our limbs
when we sleep, when we are tucked into each other,
that we are possible even if we are wobbling,
and what you can't keep, I will give away:
all there is, it will be enough.