Indistinguishable from the dark, a rat
crawls through debris. Above, aloof and pale,
the moon shines on all the heavens and hells
of the city, shines on the good and bad
alike, more intimately than the sun.
Two pounds of dung sit in our bodies’ bowels,
waiting to be released. The sweat on our brows,
the warm saliva on our twisted tongues
shall be purified in estuaries,
merge with the thoughts of seals and otters.
Our sperm and eggs become sons and daughters,
but what of the husks of all our worries,
of our falling lungs and aching gallstones,
of the scabs from our wounds, of our bad blood?
We prefer abstractions, words like: love
and redemption; hate the meat on our bones,
gag at the worms that cleanse us, yield to blight.
We are purists at heart. But, if only
it would stop pounding, if only we could be
fleshless, if only we could be like light.
first published in The Tennessee Quarterly, 1997