How long would it take to wrap my lover's body in red string? How many skeins and how numb the bending fingers when done? How long would it take to weave my hair between the hairs of his body?
I could not give him a liver or a kidney, a lung or a tooth. Like a lump of payment between us, I gave him nothing to record, nothing of note. I gave him nothing in the shapeof an aorta, sliced from my chest with a sure and delicate motion. I gave him the nothing that fell like blown cotton from the sky and disappeared.
It took years to dismantle our house together, with each plank to sliver the planes down into fine and bendable vines, years to turn the house from something solid in to something woven and curved, a set of abstract and fleshy haunchesin wood. There, across the prairie, rising from the peat, it stands. My love is my love and he moves through the spaces I left open in the weaving. He returns to the nothing I made him and lies down there on the idea of my body. [End Page 496]
The dead cat, the rabbit carcass aloft. Hanging over the fence, the jagged leaves between the lamps of golden fruit—a wedding, a wake, a wakefulness. Along the roads of Vietnam / Iraq, sound sensors planted in the war registernothing they were supposed to—perhaps a migration of birds, perhaps a storm coming from the mountains;meanwhile the armies march and recede, the men make percussion on the ground with their bodies.We dust the oranges with pesticide that bees feather over the flowers; they drop like swollen fruit,honey stuck in their bellies—A ducked chin, a V of hair in the back, we watch the photos for signs of life:the act of unconcealing—a watchfulness and ticking. I trade three oranges for the bayonet, melt the sword down to a ring,use the wood for a stake our tree will climb. The fruit hangs over the fence from the neighbor's yard where theypoison bees and play the most beautiful music. We bury the dead cat, we cover our faces in the blood of the rabbit.To understand what love has made of us— golden, jagged, and swollen— we drape our bodies across the fences;we climb more deeply into the light of the sun. [End Page 497]
Sasha West's poems have appeared in Third Coast, The Journal, and Callaloo. Her first book, Failure and I Bury the Body, won the 2012 National Poetry Series Open Competition and is forthcoming this fall from Harper Perennial. She and her husband live in Austin, Texas, where she teaches at the University of Texas's Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.