On it, the figure of something dead
Inside a man who’s penetrated
Another man articulated
Against a square that could be read
As a proper balance or a purple bruise.
They go about it silently,
Neither rapt, neither free
To do as he might elsewhere choose.
The one, his head wrenched to the side,
His scrotum like a cortex but hairy,
His penis eerily catenary,
Seems to know the other has lied.
The other has lied, pretending
To like a no-questions-asked
Approach to love’s brutal task
And the overmastered scream it ends in.
Around it, tiny continents
Of rust on the lids of oil paint,
Brushes in coffee tins, the faint
Smell of urine and arguments.
Propped up are the photographs
Of martyrs and their rigamarole,
The open car and grassy knoll,
A wartime starlet’s shimmery calf,
And clippings from some local paper,
The story of a boy who’d seen
His father shove a rifle between
His silent mother’s legs and rape her.
He sat on a folding stool and stared
At what he’d done. The edges of flesh
Where the colors unpredictably thresh—
There is the soul’s final repair.