Once in Twelve Years, I Go to Church
I go to the church with the cross in it
and I kneel, because it hurts too much to sit,
and I pray, wordlessly. I go when it’s quiet,
when service is over, ideally when no one
is there. But someone is always there.
I don’t mean the priest. I don’t mean Jesus
or some deity who looks down on us.
God does not look down on us.
God does not exist, and yet God is
all there is. I mean I look at these walls,
mammoth two-foot by four-foot
blocks of limestone that could crush us,
beautifully. And I recall that limestone
is composed entirely of skeletal fragments,
of organisms caught in their less-than-final
resting places. And I hear in the stone
a rustling, the rustling of creatures
who once crept and bled upon the Earth,
like you and me. Creatures still here,
still whispering in our ears, still embodied
and participating in the language of the world.
What I hear is: that word—upon—is wrong.
We say upon as if the Earth were merely
lithosphere—the ground beneath—
and not the atmosphere, the Ecosphere:
not the sky and why above, not the blood
and good within. We say upon as if
the Earth and men were not each other,
and the lesser was merely a visitor
upon the greater’s soils. We say upon
but mean as one, we mean the Earth
the rose up and lived as us, as she lives
the creatures who whisper in these walls,
and as she lives the little poet
turning to limestone in this poem.
The What of Us
The idea that someone lives here
gives birth to the illusion of who I am:
Ricky Ray. Nigh on forty.
Broke and broken.
Suspicious of anthropes.
Lover of dogs.
A muddle of music, morals and blood.
I have chosen to be human
more days than I wish to admit.
I have chosen animality too few.
The canary of my courage
clutches my clavicle
and pecks at the emotions I offer its beak.
The idea that somebody
lives here: a false coat.
The body lives,
and something, not someone,
picks the spine up in the morning
and feeds the mouth bananas
and puts the head down
on the pillow at night.
Many little bodies inhabit each body like a nest.
Each body inhabits a larger body like a nest.
I hear you in there.
Do you hear me in you?
We share what we are,
what lives us, what is us.
It wears everything.
It wears everything out.
We want to name it.
Language issues from our bones
and the ground
and the invisible indivisible that wants to be said.
(Or so we say,
coloring the quiet with desire.)
It warms the mouth.
It looks in the mirror and sees the ghost
of every man, woman and child who made me.
The ghost of every animal,
mineral and element who made them.
It sees the ghost of the last male
in the Ray line
childless by a choice so hard
the tears shatter my sight like glass.
One day, I will tell you why,
but for now, this branch
of the family tree bears no leaf
in preparation for falling away.
Turning brittle. Breaking off.
And yet how many sticks
have I thrown,
have my dog Addie mouthed
from the ground in love?
There’s hope in it
I can’t explain.
The tree reaches toward the light
until it too falls over
from too many riches.
That which lives us
unselves us, unveils us:
sweet revelation impales us.
How beautiful that who
was always a brief glimpse