The Book of Laughter
Whoever you are, the Book of Sorrow begins with your name
but so does the Book of Joy, though it may be a name
you do not yet know. And the Book of Laughter you will read
in stitches until you find yourself in the middle of it
say, on a ceramic toilet seat on New Year's Eve
constipated and playing the tuba, in a tiled house,
the family of the one you had been courting behind the door.
Then you will put it down. You will pick up the Book of Wisdom
many times, but each time it will be another book
with a false cover: the Book of Errors or the Book of Denial.
And the Books of Anger, Guilt, and Shame will be easy
to find in any newsstand or coffee shop. In hardback. In soft cover.
Abridged pocket editions. Anger for Dummies. The Essential Shame.
They will speak to you eloquently as the opposite of water.
They will address you, and only you: by birth star, by phone number,
on each page, in each sentence. They will say dear friend.
If there is a Book of Wisdom, you will find it only
after you've read all the other books. On each page, it will subtract words.
Page one: minus water dripping from the eaves. Page 349,
minus time, minus progress, minus democracy. Some say
when you finish it, the Book of Sorrow will erase your name,
that the Books of Anger and Errors will turn into the Book of Joy
which will keep growing, which will run clear
into a river flowing through a mountain pasture
and though no one has ever finished it, it is said
that if you did, you would find the Book of Laughter again
growing up everywhere through that field:
in the yellow willows, the witch grass, the pines,
and in the sound of the river, your whole life, bent over in stitches,
with bells and whistles, with email and gardenias and parking tickets,
with jars of formaldehyde and lip-glossed magazines,
with kisses, partly cloudy, indivisible, and justice for all.
On washed up muscle shell,
a glint of starlight.
Into you, and into.
To the deep moan.
To tickle the dawn
at the edge of the sea.
You have a name?
Say it, say it now.
into the vastly fleshed
and starry tunneled
membrane of sky.
Always, somewhere, it is dawn,
head thrown back, hands
Canoe gliding through the reeds,
the reds, violet-orange blush
of earth flushing with bloodlight,
water trickling down
the green mossy cliff.
The pond's mouth is always open.
City of Lies
In the city of lies, I felt the sunlight
become a lie. I felt the water
like my own body, the current's warm
rapture and sway that became my body
become a lie. And where the sun touched
the water, it became a thousand lies
that walked about the streets
and one of them was me. I felt my hand become a lie,
my feet, my wrist, my mind, my collarbone;
my spine, my testicles, my ass,
until all that was left, if I could find it,
was my heart, buried under newspapers and plastics.
And when at last I reached it, I asked about
my feet, my penis, my hands. I asked about the water
and the sun, and one by one it returned
them to me. The heart which could not be lost
because the lie that was told about the heart,
through one lone act of grace, happened to be the truth.