"The grey gristle knot of Elijah under a stunted tree; the red eye of God ..."


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Mr. Harris

Steve Harris

In Lambeth
   (Wm. Blake, 1793)

Visions. Spectors of the Dead hammered out on
copper plates, sketched with red and white chalk.
Words, in backward script, painted with a camel
hair brush, dipped in salad oil and candle
grease, resistant to the aqua fortis,
which eats the plate for four hours, raising
up images seen every day among the lime
kilns and blacking factories of Lambeth:
The grey gristle knot of Elijah under
a stunted tree; the red eye of God
at the window; a sad and pregnant Mary
with chicken whores outside the roaring
Adam-and-Eve. All was holy; as he pressed
plate to paper his face flamed Prophecy.

Akhmatova Reading Dante during Time of Siege

Anna Akhmatova, grey, thickening, mystical,
no longer resembles the elegant lines

of a quick drawing by Modigliani
one Paris weekend before History began;

a weekend ending with roses thrown
by a poet through a lover's window.

She ignores the hidden microphones in walls
and ceilings, and concentrates on her art.

Seeing the eternal in Dante, she reads
and rereads the three levels and places

them Russian-fashion, deck within deck,
in an indomitable matryoshka, while outside

Nazi guns cough, and Soviet guns cough back.
She doesn't write but for her ashtray,

the stray friend that drops by, memory.
Her Requiem plays in her head, safe from Party

purity. As she suffers, she cracks, deepens
like an icon, a poet portal among concrete

and hanging wires: Russian as the smoking
landscape that surrounds the bombed-out city;

Russian as the hollows beneath Christ's eyes.

Foucault Cruising

The ultimate protestant,
cut free from sin
by exclusion's end.

Cruising bathhouses,
bars, for the hot mouth,
the neat ass, society's fault.

Using power with cords,
sharp bites that push
the limits, leaving rings

in flesh, blood blooming
up in indentations.
An unfolding darkness

in the self, but detached,
done away with in maggot
spray of white. Infection,

not an idea, it leaves
the body, plants itself
in another's dead flesh.

An experiment proved
on a Saturday night:
gods whose greatest

power is to play
consensual games;
to kill the body,

to kill the soul.