When You Told Me You Were Dying, Pamela O’Shaughnessy

Weathered, Z.Z. Wei



When You Told Me You Were Dying

Sullen were we in the sweet air that by the Sun is gladdened,
bearing within ourselves the sluggish fume; now we are sullen in the black mire.
1. Dante, describing the sin of accidie.


aunt said:

I am growing out my red hair
for the last time

when you told me you were dying
churchyard stones cracked in your keeping
other friends are dying too but more sweetly
pats on the back applause
you want this too but you turn
to embrace the smoking creature
who has decided to love you black
aching aching aching making
an ache out of everything which still permits life

I turned it and cherished it
it summed up everything admirably
inside was comfort and certainty
how reckonings completions contentments feel
all I remember now is circling it

smoke just diffused into my place!
just because of my contagion!
blew out of my chest sprang another!

biff said: I have something no one can cure
(the most unusual sane man in the cosmeros)
symptom: Paralysis he said of the Will
he was emotion under a thin mantle of curls
he was so all-fired look at me cinderella
smokestack lightning and gravel crunching
waterstained put out exsanguished

I said: bream-cream is my Other o biff
late in the day a dead seal washed up.
the eyes were still brilliant.

was the middle of the night in the darkness
middle of the night when you left my home
the middle of the night in the darkness
when lovers shouldn’t be alone
the trees were shakin
in the dim moonlight
and you were forsakin
everything you knew was right
I thought with the right words
I could make you want to stay
(that’s no way to lie on a bed
beltless with a gap twixt!)

SHAKEN in the grim moonlight
searched every niche of the unichurch
the headstones knockin
tryin to find and caress
the photo of a photo of a cheek

(all this spewing shame)
mind-truffles slipped into my mouth
past North Korea Iran Iraq and Afghanistan
my passportless passage
through North Korea Iran Iraq and Afghanistan
photos of photos taken in devastated villages

on our long long trip
through North Korea
and Afghanistan
blood work:
guiding you trembling into

the minefields
of North Korea Iraq Iran and Afghanistan
in accidie
a gas-masked liberator
handing out candy
to my matted hair)

king of the four hell-countries
my veiled heart under the red cushion—
that thin thread
stretched beyond its tensileness zinging
uselessly vibrating weakening
 no grinning forces strengthen it

you will become a thing
in the stingy present dry as cracked mud
sere dunes eventless sky vacant
calm as a swim

through a swarm of jellyfish stung & stung until numb
or a vampire
of her sheetless night a fright
he has given what he could been kind
you could say that

somewhere secret you told me a secret even the military abandoned

still in love with a shrivel of short texts
did I miss seeing you carted off ?
like Caesar you dissolve without ado
I find you dangerously swimming in huge waves
far out with the crashers
you playing ball in the yard
you talking intently with an elderly man
in the kitchen tasting dinner
sick in the morning
find you and find you and find you

when you told me you were dying
leaning over I vomited my breakfast
sun reverberated off the asphalt
gophers dug for their lives
drilled through and ruined my brain
when you told me you were dying
how bald you went and parched!
hung with annunciation immovable!
a plane could not fly you away!

holding your head to my chest I
became snow falling on your mountain.
onto your mountain
my colors platinum and indigo.
stars came cascading crickets sang to the ones they loved

(cricket triumphs what do theyhave to do with us
their imprisonment in chinese times in punched brass boxes
after liberation they become unfashionable)

when you told me you were dying
(and you know as to planets a telescope reveals superb complexities
like a long night on the wrong drug)
branches enfolded us as the hot sun rose
we were lifted into
rattling leaves where
butterflies muster

tremendous day

broke off your flower

Pamela O’Shaughnessy

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