Crime and Punishment.
after Francis Bacon
The night you died, I was alone and let the phone go to voicemail. I ate from April's greening mouth, O my sorrow. I did not know. No one knew. Who knows why we were made in God's likeness but not liked by God. At the prison art show, self-portraits by one of your killers. He, the man weeping. He, the man caged. He, the matador who caught the bulls' horns like a bouquet. He and I had something in common after all. We beguile ourselves. We dream of the same man after two glasses of moonshine. Bacon said a portrait teaches us about the artist, in which case I am your killer's seceding heart with a torn ventricle for a flag. The oldest recording is not what I was told, is not Edison shouting Mary Had a Little Lamb into tin. It's a French folk singer ghosting Clair de Lune through the scratching with news of moonlight. O, starless, hereditary night offended by facts. Who wants to hear the dead? It's the dying I'm after. It's transformation that I want. Even if I can't paint a smile or discreet red, I can practice my injuries in private. I place your body in a field. I place it in a closed casket. I place it in a paragraph. An image wounds in the wrong location. The horror of a carcass is the beauty of a butcher shop. I place your body in bed, a fan stirring the hairs on your chest. At the prison art show, it all came out-- the undisciplined sympathy, the undammed need of the condemned to speak as oil, as ink, as your death tattooed on a stranger's cheek. The object is not objective, but I always find myself on my knees in front of it, choosing between God and all those lovely golden calves. The brush herds the lamb into my hands and subjects it to mercy. My pleasures are not accidents. I revived the brazen bull's metal torso with watercolor, big enough for a man, the tube from the chest's hollow to the audience who waits, lights the fire, listens as the man turning to meat inside the fabricated body of a bull and his screams transform into singing. This is what I am waiting for, for the state to take my revenge for me. I held a candle at the vigil, little thorn of fire threatening to obscure what the darkness confirmed. Guilt, a gulf unbridged. Grief, the lair of stillness. I want to see God's face, to lick the white of his eye, to order him to die for me again. I want to dig up your body still clothed in heaven and give you back to the world, give you back as lightning, as the electric volt that rides through a man, through the chair he's strapped to, his last words transcribed for the record, known, remembered, unrightfully saved.
Traci Brim hall is the author of Saudade (Copper Canyon, 2017), Our Lady of the Ruins(W.W. Norton, 2012), and Rookery (Southern Illinois University Press, 2010). She's received a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship and is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Kansas State University.
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|Title Annotation:||five poems|
|Publication:||The American Poetry Review|
|Date:||May 1, 2018|
|Previous Article:||Pastoral Before Decomposition.|
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