A Thorn in the Flesh

A wind has wrapped them in its wings,
and they shall be ashamed because of their altars.
          —Hos 4:191

A thorn in the flesh, to hold like a dissipating
belief an echo of a soul’s release until it falls
like broken seed and fills like a barren womb the
negative space of god, of whom only a trace remains,
a reverberating prayer whose reverence is no longer resonant, a
heartbeating clock unwinding into silence, the timeless always forever relevant,
a fading concept written on water uncertain itself of its

own name’s pronunciation and number, seventy-two ways in one ancient

language to say “pain,” that is what god is but
not what god means, what it does is measure what
we cannot contain or constrain by explanation, we all need
to transfigure our tormentor who is as real and antiphonal
as a hymn sheet bent over a barrel, the foul
breath of an ignored choir of angels falling flat on
the threshing floor of a displaced people split from the

heritage of their homeland by the snaking tributaries of vestigial

rivers buried under the dirt of scorched earth like the
forgotten grains of anathema wood, spilling from its mouths’ vat
an invective collective of which tar-feathered birds make mockery, every
lonely call a flapping of wings against one’s heart like
palms groping an alms bowl, songs asking god for more
while lying down in the road from harmony to discord,
all of this I heard when I looked toward the

east and bitterness Edenic and infinite as the crisping of

curling leaves heaved crackling filaments of crippling, autumnal sighs as
wide as paradise is far from mankind, thirst crying for
the blood shed like tears onto the parched hearth of
drying earth, a mist dyeing its desert ochre with a
red which never rusts, brothers killing brothers ever since our
exile from the garden the way Cain sacrificed Abel to
envy on the altar of his ego, with a smile.

1“Hosea”, [Chapter] 4[, Verse] 19, in “The Hebrew Scriptures Commonly Called the Old Testament: New Revised Standard Version” of The Holy Bible: containing the Old and New Testaments with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books: New Revised Standard Version, published at New York by Oxford University Press in 1989; page 933.