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|excerpt from "Book of Hunger" by Chris Nelson|
from Book of Hunger
Trapped in a crawlspace too small, ceiling and floor against your skull, and the distance to the little square of light where everything you never were.
No, it is not
for the boy's bright head
because he is not you
(shadow of earth cast across sky)
or because he is you
or the error of believing
The light came from far
to show you the way
you are caught.
Is it the habit, the hunger, the home?
The flash of the hammer head
after the world has been
too much here?
No one can see
you, and only you will have to live
with what you're about to do.
When it is done, you will return,
and you will be recognized
as who you were.
Girls walk safely to school and safely home.
Each carries a thin catalog of wants.
Your name, not on those lists.
Somewhere a surface splits.
Did you think it would just go away, the world?
Did you think you could forgive it all?
Here, the room as you left it.
Here, the pain and how brightly.
You carry your self to the balcony and look about. Six little stars way out of reach. The moon, visible if not for the roof. On the black grass there is no one. But isn't this when the bones of a face are felt beneath your thumbs? Beneath skin's hint of blush: gears, smaller than babies' teeth, biting a tiny exit in the sky?
If the heart weren't a weapon,
you'd go out to touch it all.
You curl into a ball small enough to fit
inside a boy's mouth,
but you are still unable
to stop being
turn to the book you so love,
the book you will not open
for fear of finishing.
Light, as if
a body. Light
filtered through the skin you are becoming.
With each wanting, bright fishes swim deeper, further away.
The girl unties her blouse
but this is not about revelation.
Night is not the darkness, but darkness wins again: first the cheers, then the praise, then the charms of gold to be encased in glass and dust, to keep you rewinding to the scene in which her hair falls in front of her eyes.
A token: the station: the blue room: the larval apple:
a hand to hold, to wed, to gnaw.
You take a hammer to someone's sternum, then her face,
then his beautiful face, then your own face, until all is
distortion and mangle. This is the dream
in which you begin to feel.
You don't know why you do it,
which makes you do it more,
as if in doing and redoing,
the opening of a door.
You wipe the sleep dust from her eyes. He wipes the sleep lust from your thighs. She says, "In the dream I crawled..." He says, "If only this weren't a dream..." She says, "There is a dream called providence..." You put your mouth against the vent to make the secret known.
She puts her voice inside your heart:
"Thank you for showing me that I am here."
She is smooth
beneath you. Inside you, he is smooth.
You wake to wonder
who you'll be today,
and the mirror doesn't help,
and the closet won't supply
a sufficiency of veils.
A moth is trapped between the window panes.
You want to retrieve it, but you want so many things.
Then you are older, and you know why.
--from which you feed
and of which you breathe and to which
all prayers are directed--
Wasn't it the world?
But you have this: an herb garden and a small wire fence to keep the rabbits from the mint. And there are many of him, many variations of his backhand strike. One eye that cries. One that looks past you. Are you you at the cusp of night?
Even yoked oxen might halt
at a trembling daisy
despite the inevitable lash,
and doesn't it feel so right,
the solid handle of the whip?
Christopher Nelson is a master's candidate and Jacob Javits Fellow at the University of Arizona. In 2009 his chapbook Blue House, selected by Mary Jo Bang for the New American Poets Series, was published by the Poetry Society of America. His interviews with poets can be read at http://nelsonpoetry.blogspot.com.