I’ve wasted my whole life in water
with a word beating against my cheek
like a little glass hammer.
If words are veils, what do they hide?
Bonfires of roses in the snow?—
Where I grieved my deaths
beneath a sea of shifting snow dunes
I never spoke a word. I burst empty—
bouquet of the body, its floral parts.
Sonnet for Gretchen
“Knead and make ready your pretty doll.”
–Mephistopheles, Part 1 of Goethe’s Faust.
I don’t even have to potion my mother
to sleep—she allows an older man to enter
my bedroom, to speak without charm
about how much it hurts, how blue
his balls will be if I don’t separate myself
on the floor before a glowing space heater.
Like Gretchen, I wonder about God—
how to keep the covenant I made
at baptism, and so I touch the sleeper’s
arm and say, Should we marry? Red
flicker in his eyes—I have a wife, he says.
I realize filling jugs with fresh flowers
has blinked past—I’m already at the end act
of wetting houseplants with my tears.