To a Grackle
Wallingford, Conn., 2013
Friend, I cannot number you. Frost seals the earth’s fat envelope with its hard fist & I am not, like a body, at rest. In the Catholic cemetery my soul takes faith apart & reassembles it as a saline cross, bleating among its fellows. Your iridescence pains it in the groin. I am thirsty for all that architecture cannot bury: meats & capital, the surrogate tain. Daylight me, unvanishing spasm of the body’s perpetual noon. I tie a thread of mercury to your appetite for my lungs to travel on. They are rich patrons. They will come to you as missionaries, reading softly from their red book stained with flowers.
They came up to me one, two, three as I crossed the pasture to which I had no national right. And of course I thought them kings, I thought them wise and bearing gifts, or I thought them Persons; I cried out that they should leave me alone. But they came, there was a stateliness to their coming. And I thought them bearers of modest burdens I couldn’t see, I thought them depositions, I thought them repositories of value, emissaries from the court of value. I turned and declared I had nothing of value, nothing to offer, nothing to spare. Still they came, neither slowly nor swiftly, there was something ancient in their coming, in their carriage, or so I thought—I liked that but it made me anxious, the way a ritual one doesn’t know, enacted so close one can feel its ancient breath against one’s percussive body, one’s drum-body, makes one anxious. We are never sure just who is to be baptized, or sacrificed. And then I was at the stile, and over, and still they came. The first sniffed at my empty fingers, then turned away. The second in his turn stood longer, seemed to look me in the eye, tongued my bare hand before he, too, stepped aside. And the third, as if in procession, halted then, approached no further. Thus judgment enters our lives, by way of the animals. What I remember most of the second’s touch was its brevity.
G.C. Waldrep’s most recent books are a long poem, Testament (BOA Editions, 2015), and a chapbook, Susquehanna (Omnidawn, 2013). With Joshua Corey he edited The Arcadia Project: North American Postmodern Pastoral (Ahsahta, 2012). He lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, where he teaches at Bucknell University, edits the journal West Branch, and serves as Editor-at-Large for The Kenyon Review.