Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Poem: Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (Revised)

after Francis Bacon


Under the lip of the jar, after the passions’ flight,
clings another passion, a bat the size of an orange
sucked dry from within, on each shoulder no wing
but a white finger. Her name is Expectancy. Blind,
she sniffs, furry neck stretching, the burning leather,
when a fierceness pierces a woman, and a germ
is released. When the baby comes, slightly deflated,
and cries for air, sucking it in like blood, a wing,
pale, hairless, unfurls from its muscle of a heart.
Joining in the cry, the internee bat keens and keens.


The bandage over the window is soaked with sun,
exposing the nerve in the wood, the stone fracture,
the nails oxidizing in the burrows they bit through.
It does not help to move house. The x-rays follow,
filming the densest parts of passions, the skeletons
of full-grown bats grasping their fingers in their arms.
Over every bed, behind the eye, a shutter blinks.
The fluorescence flutters. Hurry! The key, brass
plated with nickel, is lubed by the sticky hand,
but there is no lock. Only a mouth full of teeth.


The knife is pulled from the body, more easily
than it was nudged in. Blood follows it outdoors
to welcome the avenger. He is a familiar face,
all mouth, all howl, the portcullis teeth too small,
the ears that received the oracle delicate.
Down his throat a gang of bats is rattling, lit
by the tall gleaming lamps of his teeth. Reeking
of exhaust and gasoline, the blood he released,
sinking between the grass, collects in a pelvic dish.
The dead push against the ground but it does not give.

for Helaine


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