- Mother's Blood, and: Butcher's Skin
Blood becomes visiblein your closed eyespointed toward the sun,that's why thoughts go red,bodies go blue and youhear waves and see wavesturn yellow then greenwhile that tiny purple appleblinks around your headand you become certainof nothing but your breathwhich turns the deepest blackin air. But you know your heart's cloutingthe bones that splay across your chestand the heat of the day is palpableas a hand on your forehead.
Your mother gave you this bloodthat's now become your prismand mask, your passagewayto the sparkling placesinside yourself. Not tissue [End Page 23] and bone, but memory of memory,your small fingers once over a flameto feel the light, lightyou first saw from insideher, she's leaning over the basketof wet clothes on a morningbefore you were born,that's when you opened your eyesto amnion light, blood light,the shadow of her spine, her bodyyour kaleidoscopepointed at the sun.
One grandmother's skin after a highball turns peach,the other's always mushroom, one grandpa's peanut-colored, the other's olive, his father is coffeewith a lot of cream, his mother is milk. Butcher's color is a cutof marble cake no one's ever seen. Butcher's german,irish, spanish, american, midwestern, catholic, limestoned,rose-lipped, honey-combed, bug-eyed, super human,visioned, vanquished, excavated, openfor viewing like how he seeswhat he sees himself: cut open, plain,complicated, full of muscle, veins,organs, tissue, blood. He butchers whatever'sput before him so he can eat. What he makes with knivesis delicious, almost sweet, a kind of poetry,something for his eyes to put between his teeth. [End Page 24]
Joseph Heithaus won the 2007 "Discovery"/The Nation Prize. His poems have appeared in many journals, including the North American Review, Southern Review, and Poetry. He lives in Greencastle, Indiana, where he and his wife are raising their four children.