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American Runner

I’ve come to this headless finch
Tangled in sunlight and kudzu vine
Along the Raritan, just off the river
General Washington boated and prowled
With the teeth of former slaves in his head
To place my body in the way
Of something other than my death,
But even Orpheus couldn’t manage this,
The Maenads tossing his head into a river,
The head singing into its dismembered oblivion.
A sheaf of wheat blown from a graveyard
Into the foyer of an elementary school
And the hum of a truck’s tread
That sought to crush me flat as Gilgamesh’s sacred lute
Crow and crowd my running head,
But I’m fortunate to have a buffalo’s patience
For finding water in a jaundiced plain
And a woman who can drive an angel out
Of me or a gazelle’s skin stretched over a log.
I know the ascension of dragging a lake
For a tenor’s tongue and watching a body
Descend and rise into a parade of clay and bells.
I come from a land where a dead hog stretched out
Over a picnic table means good harvest
And we only lost one child to a tree,
The head sweetening the pines
Into a night of shifting chants…
O song of the river blood, o blood of the river song
I pawned my box of precious medicines
For a bottle of brown liquor, rent money,
And several mink coats. I envy the sea
Turtles ability to be at home while traveling
In and out of exile, in and out of the blood
Salting the ocean and paradise.
There is no terror like this: making a soul
Out of the sound of your aunt hanging from a joist
In the middle of a barn, her lashed gashes
Produced and reproduced like a Gershwin tune—
I loves you PorgieI loves you Porgie
There is no terror like this: running along the Raritan,
Watching snakes climb out of the water
And run through the forest like men.