Blood & Sky
It was an undertaking: standing in line to select
a blue or a red fountain pen from the Catholic school commissary
as a little girl in my plaid uniform. It engendered infirmity in me.
Boys in one line, girls in another; versant in how
to stand in line, distribute weight equitably
like small soldiers ritualizing the effusion
of air in and out of our lungs.
Side-by-side glissading toboggans, or girder radio towers
knocked down in a gale.
To this day, I sway on the border between blood and sky.
Jettison the jacket from my body, return it to conceal my flesh.
Brush my hair into a patina; let it dismantle into bloody antlers.
Spit venom, then massage the mouth of God,
as if he could be tamed.
The viper I sleep with under my pillow
is likely related to the one beneath yours.
Arrant shame the afternoon in the light-dappled trees
older neighborhood kids witnessed I was wearing two pairs
of underwear one on top of the other.
A sleepy getting-dressed-in-the-dark mistake
or an unconscious instinct to add a layer of safety?
As if cotton could be a shield.
As if tufted fur, a camouflage.
As if the color of the pen in my hand was a juju wand.
Scripting letters in cursive, staying within the lines
over and over until something near perfection
or beauty could be claimed.
Like the rights to a mine of turquoise;
mustangs tethered in a narrow chute.
It was my task to polish the nuns’ mammoth oval
mahogany table with Lemon Pledge.
Sometimes I stapled papers, delivered Jell-O
to an infirm priest in an easy chair.
The first known use of easy chair was in 1621. A poor man’s throne.
I prayed for the day he’d be dead
and I could look for coins beneath the cushions.
No longer lured by Fool’s Gold.
Chains bind Christmas trees where there should be lights.
To bear our cross means to facepaint our un-armored bodies
with eagles and angels, in horizontal and vertical planes.
Cut the umbilical numinous; water what we think dead.
Joanne Dominique Dwyer is the author of two poetry collections: Belle Laide (Sarabande Books, 2013) and Rasa, chosen by David Lehman for the Marsh Hawk Poetry Prize and published in May, 2022. The poem “Blood & Sky” is from her recently completed manuscript that engages in tête-à-tête poetic dialogues with the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas.