—for T. G.
Ask and I will give the nations to you, you who have not known to ask—
an abacus bead slid so long in one dimension that you thought
there was only this: to figure into the complex calculations of others,
thumbed on the margins of inscrutable quadratic machinations.
Not to be the frogman with a harpoon descending deep, not
to be his rippling slippery-scaled prey, not his mask, his oiled suit,
his rusted blade slid inside so many enemy bellies—
merely the one who admired his hunt in a romantic picturebook,
drawings of gods and strangled dragons put back on a long ago shelf.
You always confused why and how you failed. You mixed up strangers
and relatives, skies and sheets, mistook wallpaper patterns for stains,
brochures for colorful journeys, persons surrounded by smoke for saints.
Ride your horse down a rocky bank until both of you are crushed—
what other way to begin again. If you do not have a horse I will give one
to you for this purpose, with legs weak as yours and its tongue cut out
so there will be no abrupt neigh as its front knees buckle under,
instead will come a roar of all you never heard: the sound of bones,
of solitary monks kneeling in caves, an apricot swelling, closed wounds.
To know what it is to slay and be slain, and how there is no difference —
then you will know what it is you want, then I can give you the nations,
their flags, their legislatures and municipal towers, their sewers and snow,
their arbitrary borders and the soldiers who patrol them day and night,
pistol barrels slowly wiped with cloths, every bullet that will and will not
be fired, I will give you the lungs of every creature tautening with air,
how they then deflate over and over and without sorrow.
Jynne Dilling Martin lives in Brooklyn. Her poetry has appeared in the Kenyon Review, Indiana Review, Boston Review, New England Review, and elsewhere.