In the Minute of My Quickening

All things which we do today were done by us in him before we were made.


god and sin enter us at the same time,
     in our first minute of life—
to be candid and private at the same

time, two neon lives drip into sunrise
     a quivering brightness whose
kaleidoscope soothes to humid stillness

a soul’s fugitive light, flies in traces
     of anemone fragrance
whose impatient breath blows petals open

knowing that, soon enough, once within, its
     kiss fulfills a purpose no
one but death understands, blowing away

these same petals of flesh wearing us out
     like clothes, slows us down until
eyes close, entices and synapses fire

into an omen, an illusion smoke
     swallows, disavowing all
knowledge of the good lingering with sin

inside of a man ever since their first
     double penetration made
of Adam’s rib and a serpent’s tongue in

Eve a memorable scene editors
     saw fit to keep implicit
in the final cut of Genesis, what

censors parse as temptation Cabalists
     read as a script for an act
in a playbook they call B’reshit, six

letters which, as numbers (per the Mispar
     Gadol method of mystics
who practice gematria) yield the sum

913, meaning ‘in the beginning,’
     among other things this phrase
opens and closes, book-ends, as it were,


the Torah, scripture is more than a code,
     however, what translation
loses in a culture’s movement of text

is original intent, in this case,
     a sentiment saying to
who will listen, the way of creation

negotiates with no one, extolling,
     ‘first in thought, last in action,’
a maxim every substance follows

as oil allows itself to be absorbed
     by bread, entering by lips
into an alabaster prison which

glows lamplit, laughing at her contents with
     the convictions of whom she
covenants, a communion of spirits

believing the body’s walls worth being
     devoured by sarcophagus
teeth, ignorant of their own origin,

tell it to your bones that though this is not
     the only moment of which
you are made, to experience wisdom

clings, coils like a corkscrew tendril of spring,
     helical, eventual,
and returning, filial as salmon

honouring upstream the same fiat from
     which we sprang, at the loom strings
weave in the minute of my quickening

a tapestry of veins whose network I
     feel too iridescent to
escape, tubes contain vastnesses no clique

can change, gaseous multitudes of humming
     pastel channeling the nude
lies my pulse dances to, signs headlining


horizons highways dissolve under as
     a malice of figurative
language touches on insignificance

and delights in high-fiving as it drives
     by what highlights existence
before this depiction’s clarity fades,

that I am two things in one, as triune
     a host as Gilgamesh or
Christ was, opposites in a box of god,

an idiot who tells tales and walks off,
     sees the deep, returns, departs,
a seed forever asleep in the hearts

of those on whom gravity’s faulty Mach
     apple falls silent, bruises
hard with bitter thoughts, and fails those who watch,

I am Cain’s descendant observing all
     of Newton’s undoing with
hypotheses nature’s atomic seams,

an obscene misunderstanding that we
     are where she demands to be
reverenced, flickering filaments, our

name fluoresces, is fluid as sex
     on television, the shame
is a sham, choreographed, intimate

as disease, a genetic regime’s least-
     coördinated attack,
a family which tries to distill life

drinking the ink tears alchemize ashes
     to be, an epiphany
of grief transfigures me, making what seems

distant nearer, my legacy clearer
     to me, that our ancestors,
before dropping from trees, ate fruit and knew
     the cause of everything.

1John Donne, “From Essays in Divinity” in “From the Sermons, Essays and Devotions” of Donne: Poems and Prose[: Selected by Peter Washington], published at New York by Everyman’s Library in 1995; pages 214–215.