Squatting Like a Harlot at the Crossroads

De cette bouche où mon cœur se noya[…]


Of this mouth where my heart has drowned itself[…]


I have no trouble with belief
but doubt often that something believes in
me, the way wanting to does much
more for others than faith can remedy
in apostate foes, for whom love’s
one great enemy is very much one
part of themselves no one else but

those of us who know neither trust nor rest
try with tales apocryphal as
Christ’s unwritten boyhood trials test all
bible scholars, who can come up
with nothing better than suggestions, when
being suggestive is what gets
edited out, in the first place, those parts

we end up lying about to
others for what we tell our Selves will be
only a moment, emboldened
to gloat of sacrificial fallacies
until empires of fog fall each
into thicker doubt, scapegoats bleating in
this wilderness misted with such


suspicious clouds eaten by dogs of men
raiding our graves for bones thrown and
fought over like dice by journalists and
hagiographers deciding
for futures we cannot divine the true
meanings of our lives’ pasts and real
reasons we hide until centuries, then

millennia, take over and
turn into dogma our imperfections
to which we become most devout
idolaters, crude eunuchs wounded by
the sorrow of our own words’ crass
undoing wed to always being so
misunderstood, the angel whose

hand troubles the waters is John’s missing
verse, something vulgar up the skirts
of us cross-addressing, mummy-bandaged
invalids crawls with worse swagger
than our personæ can hold, prayerful but
never penitent confidence
artists whose curse is to seek in strangers


what only we can cure, being
nursed by what we endure, seeking out hurt
the way deserts draw with their thirst,
all pain traces its source to the mother,
that empty well, never knowing
if we wander this hell because she was
more virginal than was good for

her only after abandoning us
all to our own survival, or
because I became a whore, taking from
my exploits their toll, squatting like
a harlot at the crossroads where limping
affection changes its course to
courageous acceptance worth more than its

waste of one’s gold on embossing
covers of books whose secrets my flesh no
longer holds, foregoing its guilt
whenever I finger its fore-edges,
this foreskin codex my fist grips
and rhythms with such gnostic abandon
it spits hot rivers of verses.

1Charles Baudelaire, “[Poem (Poème)] 38. A Phantom (Un fantôme)”, “[Part] IV[.] The Portrait (Le portrait)”, [Stanza 1, Line 4], in “Spleen and the Ideal (Spleen et idéal)” of The Flowers of Evil: Translated with Notes by James McGowan: With an Introduction by Jonathan Culler, published at New York by Oxford University Press in 2008; pages 78 and 79 (parallel text in French and English).