A Heart like a King at War

And think not you can direct the course of love,
for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.


When I open my mouth I emit
a word like my Self, streams of fragrance
chasing every orifice, breath
redolent and resplendent with such
a suffocating opulence I
forfeit with my wealth of wisdom, and
fail language, when I forget a kiss’
meaning & let your tongue die a thousand
times before slipping between walls of
climbing flesh, whose coming down your touch
accomplishes well as your lips rush
against the blades of my own, swelling,
two blushing altars on which silence
perishes, twining with unuttered
wishes, twisting until the tension


vanishes, famished to be fed on
dripping pearls of moonlight swirling where
the ocean swallows the sky, on this
floor, on its walls, sweating from heaven’s
ceiling, falls a scene of sacrifice,
frescoes flesh obscured by shadows, flows
into pools of strewn blankets drooling
linen-white, flightless wings with broad strokes
denuding those parts of us prophets
& patriarchs, with their talk of titans
eating their own children, flap their jaws
hard against, questionable parents
questioning intentions of planets,
ghosts wondering of wandering
bodies the directions of their cold


glances, asking them ‘Are you victims
or villains?’ speaking without speaking,
you seize from within what my hands want
in you to reverence, to enter
your sanctum, to calm a storm as your
warm mouth has my own, seeing without
opening your eyes what no other
man has known, tracing in half-whispers
the path to my throne, tasting your way
through one’s seven names which, once written,
cannot be erased, with kisses you
claim what many tongues have wished for but
never before dared asked for in prayer,
a panther panting as with pleasure
at having cleansed me of the stain of


pain portraitists and biographers
insisted my fame claim as marks of
a soul’s rebirth, you open me when
you say ‘This is the anatomy
of the body of god,’ knowing my
heart is a post-literate hog who,
every morning, wishes he were
young enough to have lovers again,
whose yearning leaves hoof-prints on my head’s
ceiling, anticipation boring
into my skull, kicking and squealing,
mauled as I wait for you to come, each
pointed letter makes its own sound, each
syllable surrounds me like a torn
cloud, a shout tearing down palisades


the proudest vanity of my shame’s
reluctant boundaries erected,
your mouth disputing with truth’s movements
only peace allows, touring the shrouds
of my bedroom’s own burial ground
without trepidation, a shudder
rolling like a foreskin from the thrust
of thunder’s crash shreds through me, trickling
plodding trespasses of unsheathed trust’s
ecstasy, its torrents fulfilling
the emptiness of misread portents
as truant love floods the tomb into
the blue eulogy of which we are
together glued, clipped to splinter like
obituaries your brazen teeth


name and speak aloud, time pausing its
aching pursuit of our urgency’s
legacy to stitch into one soul
two no echoes of sadness can tear
through, a weeping secrecy no one
above, or below, the horizon
of these scorched bones can keep from knowing
the wait of centuries the stones of
warriors carry when they stick to
the path from which we stray when we play
dead, and see in scrolls of tangled beards
knotted roots we lay like fierce kings who,
priestly, refuse to marry, wreathing
in springtide laurels our pagan pangs,
foresting sin’s cravings with rings of


wilderness musk harangues, our mass true
initiates of its dank congress
only we can witness, taking in
your testimony like a maiden
exchanging her virginity in
anticipation of foregoing
penalty for having transgressed much
the talents which are your dominion,
opening hands for a flaming sword
relinquished by a slain servant of
another man’s lord, I praise the load
of your angel who pours arrows on
those whose wounds draw down to the marrow
the stars, those holes whose fires, like the eyes
of heroes, prepare us to humble


and hollow our bones, burning out of
them seeds of secrets for which they are
borrowed repositories, barred-doored
storehouses of treasures no glimpse of
which the impure can afford, sacred
cages against the bars of which my
spirit rages, a heart like a king
at war, into one night’s cavern I
follow your caravan until it
turns corrupting power’s desert heat
into something bearable, reaching
underneath these dread symbols to read
deep into this tryst’s mythic more than
a parable, but something novel,
something making worth it this struggle.

1Kahlil Gibran, “On Love” in The Prophet, published at New York by Alfred A. Knopf in 1976; page 13.