You won’t wipe away my joy
in my seaweed skin, my hunched neck,
my folds and creases you hide in
even as I throw my arm around you and lie
my leg sweaty and cooling next to yours.
I know you make my face more
interesting to me on this beautifully
lit stage made to look like an open
field where I wander in your theater
of fantasies touching God knows what
in this delirium of bodies
in this noisy club where everybody’s
drinking and that’s you leaning over
secretly spitting in everybody’s drink.
In my fever God put me down a hole to heal or die—
what could I do but look up at the sky,
down at the molten creep of the underworld?
There were tables and chairs and houses and lights
but no people—no people anywhere:
empty as the volcanic plain of the Mountains of the Moon
where my fear was like a mouth in which I was the only word
and it spoke me back to God in a way that said
No—and for my refusal, God gave me the fever,
God put me down the hole—and God was right:
He lay out there hiding on the plain so empty:
I looked up out of my hole, ready to die
among the tables and chairs and houses and lights and God
put Himself in my hand and dared me to bite.
from American Poetry Review