Not Cure, Not Denial
…Murderers are easy
to understand. But this: that one can contain
death, the whole of death…
can hold it to one’s heart
gently, and not refuse to go on living,
—Rainer Maria Rilke, The Fourth Duino Elegy
Eleven years you held death in your body,
lulled to sleep with songs where
clouds support a castle’s weight
and princes feed a kingdom with a dragon’s blood.
Now it wakes and nibbles. You
suffer fevers, thrush, your doctor’s cold
insistence that the virus is a cold
and patient god who will wait
years to reap a body.
Once I was the broken one. You
did my laundry, rubbed my neck, drove me where
the sea was endless and its jeweled waves calmed my blood.
Tonight the moon spills silver. Blood-
flecked insects glow in the cold
light. We walk in woods where
years ago you
carved my name into the body
of an oak. A dark bird circles, waits.
Voice flat, you say, “My life is a wait
between funerals.” Those who shared your blood
are dead. “Why love anybody?”
Branches drop their shadows as you
dig up flowers. Morning opens its cold
eye. I shiver, drift off into memory where
you made the world a place where
each ripe hour waited to be picked. You
had pulled me out of heroin’s cold
hug, its house of promises and blood,
kissed me bold and weight-
less. Your tongue gave me back my body.
Sun lifts its gold. Weak rays lack the warmth my body
craves. Vines bend beneath dark berries’ weight.
You crush them, smear the pulp and blood,
brush away my arm and stand where
I can’t touch you. Eyes cold,
fingers clenched, you
practice death’s cold No. Love, I beg you
risk a now where passion stirs your blood.
Fill your body. Make the darkness wait.
Alison Stone is the author of Dangerous Enough (Presa Press, 2014), Borrowed Logic (Dancing Girl Press, 2014), From the Fool to the World: Poems in the Voices of the Major Arcana of the Tarot (Parallel Press, 2012) and They Sing at Midnight, which won the 2003 Many Mountains Moving Poetry Award and was published by Many Mountains Moving Press. Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, Barrow Street, Poet Lore, and a variety of other journals and anthologies. She has been awarded Poetry magazine’s Frederick Bock Prize and New York Quarterly’s Madeline Sadin award. She is also a painter and the creator of The Stone Tarot, a tarot deck reproduced from original oil paintings by Alison. A licensed psychotherapist, Alison has private practices in New York City and Nyack. She is currently editing an anthology of poems on the Persephone/Demeter myth.
This poem appeared in the journal Poetry and in the collection They Sing at Midnight.