HomeArchiveAboutMastheadJoin POW ListserveDonate
Dennis Hinrichsen

11-02-07

On Purgatorio I

    
Go with this man; see that you gird his waist
     With a smooth reed; take care to bathe his face…
                    (trans. By Mark Musa)


Sometimes mercy fell all the way down and made tiny windows in the fields.  And sometimes it simply hovered in the seven times twenty panes of glass.  It’s not that I couldn’t stand such utter selflessness— one thing passing into another across the distance— it’s just that the sun resembled more a burning kite than star and stained the building with the pinks and muted oranges, muted yellows, of its raging sorrow.  Still, it held me there, winter sunset, and stood me helpless.  The beauty was in the fuel of the thing.  How each window banked like ignited water, the red bricks riffling in the perfect residue of seconds…  Years later, it was my daughter wandering casually in to watch me bathing that undid me.  How she played with the stacked towels awhile, toothpaste, soap, until this game bored her and she turned to me to wash my face and hair as only a child can: in the frank, religious spirit of cleansing, nursing.  Awed, I let her scrub me.  I let the grimed water sheet me like a radiant cloak until this too bored her and she wandered back to play with toys, left me chilled above the whirr of traffic.  I was in the car again.  It was 1968.  The dream-time was all around me spilling the others’ blood, the car that held us such a poor kite to the hill’s wind.  I remember waking upside down above the pivot and knowing nothing of time but a kind of hurry-up to save the cell-life, my father’s borrowed jacket on another scrunched beside me in the filtering light…  Witless, our ritual cleansings, the actual timings: a second window flared beneath me on the bitter earth.  I dropped and hurried toward it, crawled hands and knees into the charity and utter coarseness that was ditch grass.
                                                                               
Message to Be Spoken into the Left Ear of God

This is the child drowning: face-up in an amniotic pool of tap water:
my crucible, liquid garment; eyes spanked open in the rocking

inches of light.
Above me: my mother’s face torn, her print dress blown

to flame; refraction making me seem— at least to her, looking down—
A macrocephalic—

like those in the ward my sister was rubied to when a neighbor
rammed her straight down hard— bumper to hip— to the packed snow

of Dolores Avenue,
branches scarring the dome of sky like the cracks in her

skull, or like the veins in the policeman’s face when he jumped
downstream into chunks

of ice to catch a neighbor girl like a toy Ophelia.  Her body
in his pale blue arms as limp and blue as grief, her

coat tails dripping
above the steaming current.  Tadpole— minnow— knife blade—

tag of flesh—  layer of bone— my father’s face finally astonished,
finally raised—

forehead piercing a nail angling from a joist.  Oh, these crucifixions
staining the fingers, tasting of raw sewage, fish,

cicadas like a giant
rust in the trees, 40,000 ticking Geigers, and not one rock

to set them off; rather, as if our bones in sleep were their decaying
mineral, the

marrow gone soft, gone nuclear.  The way the heart shrinks, and
veins go flat as dying rivers.  Or twist in swirls of blue elastic.

The bath water drawn,
the liquid steaming, melting the crude minerals just beginning
 
to line the child’s brain, hair drifting in the gentle
slosh.  The body—

pale, naked, wingless.  How I hovered once like a sea-
horse in my mother’s womb.  And then dropped out screaming.
 
        -from Message to Be Spoken into the Left Ear of God 2004
 



 

Archive


Kim Addonizio 03-14-08

 

Agha Shahid Ali 09-14-07

 

Alice Anderson 11-16-08

 

Renee Ashley 04-10-2010

 

Christianne Balk 07-27-07

 

Brian Barker 07-07-07

 

Polina Barskova 09-13-2010

 

Bruce Beasley 11-22-08

 

Nicky Beer 09-06-2010

 

Nicky Beer 08-22-08

 

Nathaniel Bellows 04-27-09

 

Ciaran Berry 01-25-09

 

Linda Bierds 08-31-07

 

Kristin Bock 08-17-09

 

Bruce Bond 02-18-2012

 

John Bradley 03-12-2012

 

Brian Brodeur 03-29-09

 

Michelle Boisseau 09-20-2010 

 

Sophie Cabot Black 03-26-2012

 

Anne Caston 09-24-09

 

Anne Caston 02-27-2011

 

Elizabeth Biller Chapman 01-25-08

 

Nicole Cooley 04-05-09

 

Stephen Cramer 02-14-2011

 

Nicole Cuddeback 03-07-08

 

Steve Davenport 03-29-2010

 

Cortney Davis 05-03-09

 

Todd Davis 11-01-2010

 

James Dickey 03-12-2012

 

Stephen Dobyns 02-26-2012

 

Elizabeth Dodd 09-05-08

 

Karen Donovan 04-15-07

 

Mark Doty 04-11-08

 

Stephen Dunn 11-09-02010

 

Lynn Emanuel 08-30-2010

 

Lynnell Edwards 11-22-2010

 

B. H. Fairchild  09-04-09

 

Elyse Fenton 04-25-2011

 

Nick Flynn 01-28-2012

 

Nick Flynn 10-04-2010

 

Rachel Contreni Flynn 04-10-2011

 

Carolyn Forche 09-21-07

 

Carrie Fountain 03-21-2011

 

James Galvin 02-23-07

 

Margaret Gibson 01-24-10

 

Mary Jo Firth Gillett 02-22-08

 

Dana Gioia 08-23-2010

 

Eugene Gloria 09-20-08

 

Louise Gluck 03-17-2010

 

Kevin Goodan 08-29-08

 

Matthew Graham 11-28-2010

 

Robert Grunst 11-16-07

 

Bruce Guernsey 9-13-2011

 

Elizabeth Hadaway 06-15-07

 

John Haines 11-01-2011

 

Donald Hall 02-10-07

 

Sarah Hannah 11-25-2011

  

C. G. Hanzlicek 04-23-2012

 

Jeff Hardin 08-10-07

 

Elizabeth Haukaas 09-13-2011

 

Brooks Haxton 03-08-10

 

Seamus Heaney 09-11-09

 

Jamey Hecht 12-05-2010

 

Bob Hicok 10-25-2011

 

 

Andrew Hudgins 11-21-09

 

Lynda Hull 05-20-07

 

Henry Israeli 01-23-2011

 

Major Jackson 05-02-2010

 

Mark Jarman 10-19-08

 

Rodney Jones 10-26-09

 

Barbara Jordan 02-02-09

 

Ilya Kaminsky 11-18-2011

 

Daniel Khalastchi 8-30-2011

 

Brigit Pegeen Kelly 10-12-08

 

Jane Kenyon 04-01-07

 

Suji Kwock Kim 11-09-2011

 James Kimbrell 04-07-2010

James Kimbrell 01-19-07

 

Galway Kinnell 11-09-07

 

Yusef Komunyakaa 07-15-07

 

Phil Levine 06-03-07

 

Eleanor Lerman 11-02-08

 

Larry Levis 04-04-08

 

Larry Levis 02-08-2010

 

Lisa Lewis 02-11-2012

 

Sandy Longhorn 04-26-08

 

Corey Marks 10-03-07

 

Adrian Matejka 04-18-08

 

Davis McCombs 01-18-08

 

Jeffrey McDaniel 10-08-2011

 

Michael McGriff 02-22-09

 

Jay Meek 01-16-2010

 

Anne Michaels 01-18-09

 

Nils Michals 02-29-08

 

Keith Montesano 12-12-2010

 

Malena Morling 05-12-08

 

Simone Muench 02-08-08

 

Sharon Olds 02-22-07

 

Sharon Olds 10-19-07

 

Michael Ondaatje 02-01-2010

 

Eric Pankey 09-07-07

 

Gregory Pardlo 06-22-07

 

Ed Pavlic 09-28-07

 

Oliver de la Paz 02-15-2010

 

Lucia Perillo 12-04-09

 

Catherine Pierce 04-18-2011

 

Jon Pineda 04-09-2012

 

Donald Platt 02-15-08

 

Joshua Poteat 03-13-2011

 

Joshua Poteat 11-3-09

 

Wyatt Prunty 02-20-2011

 

Dean Rader 03-07-2011

 

Amy Randolph 03-01-09

 

Robert Randolph 12-12-09

 

Adrienne Rich 04-20-2010

 

Joshua Robbins 11-16-2010

 

David Roderick 12-07-07

 

Bobby C. Rogers 02-04-2012

 

Pattiann Rogers 3-21-08


 Steve Scafidi 10-09-09

 

Jim Schley 10-19-09

 

Tim Seibles 10-08-07

 

David Shumate 10-26-08

 

Dave Smith 04-10-09 

 

Katherine Soniat 01-21-2012

 

Katherine Soniat 11-30-07

 

Gary Soto 03-23-07

 

Mark Sullivan 08-28-09

 

Mathias Svalina 04-02-2012

Frank Stanford 10-25-2010

Mark Strand 02-22-2010

 

Mark Svenvold 03-23-09

 

Robert Thomas 05-03-2011

 

Brian Turner 05-13-07

 

Joshua Vinzant 01-30-2011

 

Tribute to Virginia Tech 04-24-07

 

Connie Voisine 10-1-2011

 

Charles Harper Webb 10-12-07

 

David Wevill 03-27-2011

 

C.K. Williams 05-25-07

 

Susan B.A. Somers-Willett 06-29-07

 

Charles Wright 01-27-07

 

Robert Wrigley 10-11-2010

 

Robert Wrigley 08-17-07

 

Robert Wrigley 04-09-07

 

Robert Wrigley 02-03-07