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Michael Wasson
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SELF–PORTRAIT WITH TORN SHEETS
of music: left to smolder the broken bed
                while the body is abandoned

to the dream: bed sheets like a curtain
                of smoke: I’m rising like scent

woven into the sweat collected &
             smeared over my neck: a blue vein

throbbing like a life-
             rope—a way out of the dark: the music

signatures like little locusts
          leaping from their blackened thoraces & into

the ark: yes, my one mouth
              holds every beast drowning: the last

one living wants so much
           to breathe: so breathe, my beast: that music

I’ve torn from the torn page: someone
                  had always been gasping

for another second
                   to live: to be built this way

like a cathedral found just after
                  the flood—in a dripping forest

of warped mirrors.

 

THIS FAITHFUL PURGE, ON BEHALF OF YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER
As in any day—a war twisted from my teeth: from the tongue
                         crushed between

that desperate silence of parted lips: the first entrance
                            to my body: a kiss

telling you: spare me—
                    please—the soft agony of living

another daybreak swallowed once
                  again by night: I walk to the field’s

center & open
              my palms. I lie down here to face you. Cut off

my hair. Undress: I’m naked
              for you: my soon-to-be slick shining skull

revealing gashes
         the color of swollen eyes: this body holds its own blood-

washed scalp: as if a prayer
                 wanted to be so true: as if every one

of its words was the new sky teaching me: this
                    is already more than a body

could ever handle: so I take my hair—
                  half a life’s worth of dark & length—

& ignite my dead father’s
                    last BiC lighter. Because I burn

the field & have, for centuries—
                  my mouth to worship: for what’s left

is the shape of a boy
                     like the exiled beast kneeling

before the fire &—without another
                         sound—disappears.

 

 


Michael Wasson is the author of This American Ghost (YesYes Books). The recipient of a 2018 NACF National Artist Fellowship in Literature and the Adrienne Rich Award for Poetry, his poems appear in American Poets, Beloit Poetry JournalKenyon Review, Narrative, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, and Best New Poets. He is nimíipuu from the Nez Perce Reservation in Idaho.


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