Which way I fly is Hell, myself am Hell.
I tapped my own head;
it was glass, an inverted bowl.
An unearthing, then. Seven,
instead of ten. Ritual,
it must have been. Severing,
when wed, these fingers from him.
A man’s, for certain. Thickened
twistings of bent parsnip, each
dissonant enough, now, to
never again comprehend
what garden from the soft soil
of which these offerings were
culled. Called, then, by some arcane
tradition, to pull beneath
broken earth what hurt working
its course, until disturbed, would
turn out to have been worth more
endured alone beneath roots.
Bones of forest locked like lace
of scattered teeth, beneath dark
seedlings fragrant with sweet pine
these dismembered digits count
as meals missed by the son who
deposited them. Married
to none, other than buried
fists laid mystical to rip
from war’s frothing mouth its grit,
here, where I sit, at end’s edge,
savagery of honesty
digs in the smiling bend which
seems to have opened from some
knowing grin. Pulling in when
pink from blushing those questing
for some touch of sin against
the chill gasp of which its dripped
echo diminishes as
each sliver of flesh silvers
itself with blemishes touch
warms from stilled mercury spit
by dusk’s winking sigh into
this radish rush of bled beet
these lifted fingers pilfered
by mine, alive, begin to
glow with. Or seem to, that is.
For the ferryman, doubtless,
another sorcerer must
here have deposited these
splinters of indecision
only a magician’s own
silent knowing could have, once
chosen, torn open this wood’s
desolate bed to fill with
some saint’s relics, that this waste
of place might from a secret
grave flower this bed with bloom
of pace. So that, passing on
the very spot, heels would be
quickened to steal away at
once. Feet would betray in haste
that, underneath, here point these
seven fingers the way from
faith toward fate, prayer to change.
And so, feeling out the ruse,
kneeling on sacred doubt grown
over with an ache wept down
only here, above this place
wet with travellers’ tears, where,
nearer an encompassing
field of magnetic needles
pinwheeling pine-lined pitfalls,
some artist’s coffin mouth calls.
1John Milton, “Book IV”, Line 75, of Paradise Lost in Paradise Lost: Edited with an Introduction and Notes by John Leonard, published at New York by Penguin Books in 2003; page 75.
2Anne Sexton, “For John, Who Begs Me Not to Enquire Further”, Lines 17–18, in “From To Bedlam and Part Way Back (1960)” of Selected Poems of Anne Sexton: Edited with an Introduction by Diane Wood Middlebrook and Diana Hume George, published at Boston by Mariner Books in 2000; page 26.