With That Black-Eyed Intensity (Of Suffering and Spirit)

I scorn the secular crowd and keep them out.
Be silent. I am a priest of the Muses
               and I chant for young men and maidens
                              poems that have never been heard before.

                                             To the Boys of Sumer—


In the emptiness of a densely-
populated place, where Arabic
is the language of sex—a glass-break
of heartache, this is pain blown out in-
to the shape of a poem. In the
face of inextinguishable grief,
exhausting all resources to reach
something resembling catharsis costs
its author his spark, art igniting
another which perhaps burns brighter—
lights in the water, this eclipse of
ours mirrors the stars with all the starved
blankness of a sunset staring us
down, with that black-eyed intensity
of suffering & spirit your silence
speaks & I hear it, I hear it weaken
from underneath the vagrant piers the
job of whose aching arms it is to
hold up this tower of our grief, our
depth’s explosive subtext menacing
a monolith to dust with justice
cartomantic & lightning-quick, quaking
it to crumbling sedimentary


fragments of ego we thaw then throw
gallantly into the sea of our
depression, peaceless pieces of grim
princes expurgated from fairy
tales whose agonies act as angry
delegates to conferences our
aggressions forget are gatherings
where fences are mended, not where walls
are built, into and throughout oceans
of exotic thrift we spill toxic
quantities of unwanted guilt, sick
swimming in it my tongue licks from the
bottom this winking language of our
transgression, sucking in what cannot
be said to give the disgusting a
poetic function, since Babel’s bricks
have stripped from our lips all workings of
lovers conversing, scraping from this
wickedness of our candlelit hearts
every waxen layer of flesh,
grating through a patchwork artifice
of oyster-slick pearls feigning curdled
innocence to expose as cheats those


Icarus-winged perversions rubbing
raw flawed souls whose wineskin coats have been
worn-out by too much experience,
we whose swollen cheeks are bruised peaches
carrying a pestilence of breath
pitting against survival the last
of it, we share a kiss, no longer
getting off on withholding this sweet
grievance we air, zodiacal and
Piscean as we cycle to the
bottom, two gutted fish hooked on the
symphonic resonance of sound’s loud
absence, two symbols drowning in the
consolation overtaking our
frustration, scarlet-lettered men of
heated & hated males knowing for once
that opening up takes away from
us nothing, that this is a death no
translator can English or erase
from having been lived—yes, we are them,
the heretics & mystics of our own
religion, siblings of our own sin’s
rivalry, symptoms of failed systems.

1Horace, “[Book] III, [Ode] 1”, [Stanza 1, Lines 1–4], in The Odes and Epodes of Horace: A Modern English Verse Translation by Joseph P. Clancy, published at Chicago by The University of Chicago Press in 1960; page 104.