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Ed Pavlic


              -after Miles

There’s plenty that think we’re twins.  By 18
   we’d both wished secretly that it was true,
      & that it wasn’t.  Since we were 9

we met here on stealth banks of August,
   each year another Savior & sweet thanks be
      to Jesus for that old rowboat.

Remember my instructions when we met?
   I’d bent a coffee can into a scoop to hunt
      the mud banks for crawfish.  “The whole

trick with blue pinchers is getting in behind
   without setting off a stir on their tail.”  Now
      we’re getting to be His age.  But apart

from watches & sky dates, you know how to find me
   when my head’s full of scuppernong blossoms.
      So we cast off past wisteria

& into night silk beyond the river’s edge.  Empty skins
   of tree snakes, ash vibrissa, draw the canopy.
      Tangles of moss wisp past my cheeks,

fall out of a lullaby.  No moon.  If I spark my lighter,
   willows young & old pretend they don’t breathe
      the dark, don’t slip thru nights

in tangos with cypress & Saturn tuned in to bent
   underwater reeds.  Posed they stand like a big-city
      crowd at a bust stop, & just reach

off the bank for elbow room.  Come out that white blouse
   & upside down, you watch open lilies fall away,
      a bird’s eye vision

of your daddy’s parachute into the Mekong Delta.
   A back bend arched over the bow, your bare torso slips
      thru a summer breeze, cuts

a hush in the cicada din.  A pale gash torn past my lips
   leaves the night open.  Light-plays off my chrome
      Zippo.  Hershey’s kisses harden

into rose thorns dense as a shut eye’s faith in tarot.
   My name, dry salt on an arch-smooth eyebrow,
      vanishes into steamed woods & gut-heavy

air like sweat into a prayer for rain.  We take on water
   in each Decatur Street groan for Mercy.  It’s far too late,
      slipway a damned sight too steep

for Esperanto or one-eyed jacks.  To pull the moon
   back with cracked oars curved like tusks, you’d better
      mean it.  It’s about time for round two.

Oceanus descends with an acetylene tear & dreams
   of a blue tip, a cool flame; the other eye’s been gone
      for years, blind & lid turned cold side out.

      -from Paragh of Bone & Other Kinds of Blue, 2001

A Brief History of Now and At least
a Good Elbow's Worth of Headroom

It was heaven there for a minute
without you
but let’s not talk about me.
Let’s talk about the year
of nights that left scars
soft as a finger down new suede.
You talk first & I’ll listen
to music pulse thru invisible hair
inside my veins.  Let’s talk
about a tongue’s open sky drawn
full of holes left by glitch-gone stars
across lips smooth as knots
in lemonwood & cast iron tea
cups full of molten silver.  Let’s talk
about that ox bow vein I love
under your tongue & the ghostly taste of elm
you say I leave in your mouth.  The night

sky spins pink into spiral shells and moonless fields

of fluid in the inner ear.  Let’s roll backward
as if the last Golgotha moth
might still lift up
off the dusted tip of Ptolemy’s
cat nose.  Let’s keep key insights
in mind.  The day you couldn’t recognize
yourself & we tried to repair
the antique mirror.  Let’s flip a coin
for who wears the satin mask
we found behind the glass.
Let’s talk as if all that’s behind us
is an empty web & a blind hole
where lead wore away.
You be the bent nails.  I’ll be the rusted wire.
You wind that caught a wing of eyes
in dawn’s hollow-boned chest & I’ll be
the death-song of the flightless
bird.  Let’s both talk at once, the crimson monsoon
of 1021 that salved the mad mind of Caliph
Al-Hakim & reversed the flow
of the Nile.  I’ll persecute the astrologers
& burn all the women’s shoes.  You be the sister
with the knife at my throat.  Let's play a game
& go on under our breath ad infinitum
back til gull-winds expose the tomb door

& cursive drifts of white feathers

veil openings to the cave.
Let’s dive in the leaves on the count of three
& use any voice we can for the miracle
that we both fell
between bamboo spikes in the pit. Recall
Rimbaud’s father outside Tunis
holed up at the walled fort.  You take the voice
that could crack a skull & turn
it on a heavy wheel in his son’s head.
I’ll take wet clay
& fire pitched by yellow wings glazed in arsenic.
Inch close if you’re going to talk me down
when I’m whipped wild & half-hinged,
a busted shutter
blown thru by mad light
in the brain.  Speak low when your voice shifts
like torchlight
on a herd of stolen camels
painted with tar & doused with paraffin.
Let’s change these fool minds
between every syllable
like they’re bareback on a roan
riding a death-bright web of flame

thru the drop-gate of the Sultan.  Let’s use aesthetics

of the past like “everyone goes deep.”  Pass routes
in a street ball huddle
go thru along dirt paths
on the palm of the biggest boy’s hand.
Let’s ride for the black crystal
crown of flint & attack
the equilibrium Sirius before it dawns on us
that it blew long before dawn
in the human head.
Let’s play charts of lost scales
from Shiva’s flute, songs
of Somnath in flames & the truce
between Seljuk & Mahmud of Ghazna.
Let’s charge and sing ourselves blind
& numb as sunlight on bleached femurs.
Let’s surrender like perfect critics
back into this rag tag dance of stolen flesh
laced with tongue-along-feather
songs drawn back by clan archers turned musicians
& Firdawsi’s miracle-field metered

by raw knuckles & the rhythm of poppies

in bloom. You were saying?  I’m there & back
here like hell & gone again & your hand up
under my jeans worn-torn & soft
as the faded fringe of blue.
Look, you hum me, I’ll find
your pulse like we’re lost in the dark,
like blood in a green vein, the dead taste of money
& a sharp whiff of cordite & opium
khaki-packed on a donkey
& led untouched through a stone maze
in Ishkashim on its way to a high path
thru Pamir.  “C Major Wars” from last weeks TLS
enfolded in a burka’s secret
pocket.  Quiet as an elbow-cradle
for a GPS grip duct taped on a Kalashnikov stock,
the silent slide of a tongue along
skin tone
from across the room til every cut’s been cut
again with the vibrato of piano
wire strung across the path of an eyelash
blown from the back of a stranger’s
hand.  Let it all course in us & touch me
like Doppler drone
from a neon cell phone

thrown from a balcony at the first blood on dawn’s open lips.

    -from Labors Lost Left Unfinished