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Angel Butcher
At sun up I am up
hosing down the outdoor abattoir
getting ready. The water
steams and hisses on the white stones
and the air pales to a
thin blue.
              Today it is
Christophe. I don't see him
come up the long climb or
know he's here until I hear
my breathing double
and he's beside me smiling
like a young girl.
              He asks
me the names of all
the tools and all
thir functions, he lifts
and weighs and
balances, and runs a long
forefinger down the tongue
of each blade.
              He asks
me how I came to this place and
this work, and I tell him how
I began with animals, and
he tells me how
he began with animals. We
talk about growing up and losing
the strange things we never
understood and settling.
              I help
him with his robes; he
has a kind of modesty and sits
on the stone table with
the ends of the gown crossed
in his lap.
              He wants to die
like a rabbit, and he wants me
to help him. I hold
his wrist; it's small, like
the throat of a young hen, but
cool and dry. He holds
mine and I can feel the
blood thudding in the ring
his fingers make.
              He helps me, he
guides my hand at first. I can
feel my shjoulders settle and
the bones take the weight, I can
feel my lungs flower as the
swing begins. He smiles again
with only one side of his mouth
and looks down to the
dark valley where the cities
burn. When I hit
him he comes apart like a
perfect puzzle or an
old flower.
              And my legs
dance and twitch for hours.

Saturday Sweeping
Saturday sweeping
with an old broom
counting the strokes
back and forth.
The dust sprays
up silver in the
February sun
and comes down gray.
Soft straw muzzle
poking in and
bringing out
scraps of news,
little fingers
and signatures.
Everybody's
had this room
one time or another
and never thought
to sweep. Outside
the snows stiffen,
the roofs loosen
their last teeth
into the streets.
Outside it's
1952,
Detroit, unburned,
stumbles away
from my window
over the drained roofs
toward the river
to scald its useless
hands. Half
the men in this town
are crying in
the snow, their eyes
blackened like
Chinese soldiers.
The gates are closing
at Dodge Main
and Wyandotte
Chemical; they
must go home
to watch the kids
scrub their brown
faces or grease
cartridges for
the sow down.
If anyone knocks
on your door
he'll be
oil flecked or
sea born, he'll
be bringing word
from the people
of the ice drifts
or the great talking dogs
that saved the Jews.
Meanshile our masters
will come on
television
to ask for our help.
Here, the radiator's
working, stove says
Don't touch,
and the radio's crying,
I don't get enough.
I'm my keeper,
the only thing
I've got,
sweeping out
my one-room life
while the sun's
still up.


Told
The air lay softly on the green fur
of the almond, it was April

and I said, I begin again
but my hands burned in the damp earth

the light ran between my fingers
a black light like no other

This was not home, the linnet
settling on the oleander

the green pod swelling
the leaf slowly untwisting

the slashed egg fallen from the nest
the tongue of grass tasting

I was being told by a pulse slowing
in the eyes

the dove mourning in shadow
a nerve waking in the groin

the distant hills
turning their white heads away

told by the clouds assembling
in the trees, told by the blooming

of a black mouth beneath the rose
the worm sobbing, the dust

settling on my eyelid, told
by salt, by water, told and told.