Issue 144, Fall 1997
If I tell a story of America it will be with the needle
splitting Demuth's needle-pocked skin-how his blood blooms
in insulin as he hunches his shoulder to shield the syringe
from the crowds around him who stare into the arcs of acrobats
pinwheeling through the splayed open air of the circus tent.
Before the thumbstroke and glide he watches his blood fade
and thinks of the garden he wandered in Paris before he collapsed
and the weakness and craving became a disease, before it became
a word. The garden where another man kneeled
in front of a wash of lilacs and coughed once, a dry, shallow cough...
Or I'll tell it with the watery fade of color from his brushpoint
into the melting flight of the acrobats, how the distant hand of one
becomes lost behind the yellow body of another and how,
as it passes into the other man's crotch, the hand dissolves
into the paper, into a forgiveness for desire, and not a denial,
not the precise denial in the incorruptible geometries
of his Lancaster, the razor-incised pencil line and oil, black windows
red buildings, black smokestacks speaking balloons of white smoke.