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114 CHAD SWEENEY EXODUS 1. Playing peekaboo with God I found this sweater in a dumpster. I felt greedy taking it for myself, forgive me, I was so lonely. 2. That was the year I lived outside myself, in the distance, in a study of diagonals. I showed my diploma to the words on a fence. I peeled back the road and ladled out fire. I was aware of a lengthy trial but could not see my accusers. 3. Who’ve you been lately while sine and cosine were making love, and light was shattering the hierarchies, sleeplight on statues, soundlight on bridges, and only the children 115 could see it? Who were you when the trains left their tracks to circle the cities ominously while the weather was precisely still and our earth hurried under it? 4. The thought of Jonah trying to outrun God in a boat is sweet, don’t you think? I’m trying to outrun God on this green old couch. It’s got a flat tire, one missing headlight. I failed to hide my pinkeye during the spelling bee, everyone staring and backing away. That will be the way I die. 5. From black sea ice, from green, from the source of green, from its taproot in the sun, a visual silence haunts the promenades, the things and their halos, 116 the ghost of a calf in a book about waiting, Abel is reborn in the dry sounds of crickets in the tender fires that populate the mountains—and Cain keeps killing him, it’s his job, of course, as old as the eyes of ants. 6. I wear the language casually along les rues and in the brothels and black skins of books. I wear my eyesight taut, at the breaking point so one may walk across it right up to my ugly mouth for a kiss. Yes, let’s meet at my mouth in the place of no seasons. On occasion, a momentum threatens to build, like a spiral of snow, almost a flower, then nothing . . . then a second nothing. There were so many children in my family, I never learned their names, or learned and then forgot. Our ages were fixed, like the heavens, for years at a time, then would suddenly shift. One could be a baby again and again, and all the door frames were mother. 7. The square root of space is gravity, the root of gravity 117 loam, the root of which is a mustard flower, and so on until one arrives at the self where all paths end, the last window of the last city, buried but transparent like a stone—it’s beautiful, the wind inside that stone. 8. I remember a time in the future when the bluebells will mark this hill, and we who saw them will no longer see them. I want to gather everything which has been forgotten. Nothing has been forgotten, a tremble of smoke in amber, a trucker’s exiled lung. Love poems are impossible to write, near impossible to read, I think of places this water has been, in tar, the tooth of a criminal, the long wound of the Nile. To make you I gather iron and 118 distance, a mandrake root in old blood, wait for soot to adumbrate the mosques of our city. I shout this waiting into clay, then bread, then you, my son, tiny prophet, king of nothing. To make language fail is too easy, I want to gather up the future and make a man. 9. A few moments into moonrise, the lunar morning above white streets, the honeysuckle of fire-escapes, night bees carry uranium powder on their fur, deeper into language. The Sphinx and Oedipus are one is the answer to the riddle, the father-killer, the I eat-in-order-to-live inside us. 119 10. O Jerusalem, my gravest fear is that the past c-c-cannot change like Dante’s descent into syntax, like vapor above a mine field. I stopped off for a little whiskey on the way to my 20s and missed them completely. My shrink calls when her crises are blooming, bruises opening in...


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pp. 114-120
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