198: Night Work

198: Night Work

Night Work
by Ed Bok Lee

All summer, the city engine's low
roar capsizes our bodies into sleep,
groans,
                        evacuation—
                                                             Lost to a watery
anamnesis so warm it requires a raft
thatched from death's
                                               flotsam to necklace its shore

                                    I swim on, calling your name

In my dreams, something is always deserting

But tonight, no fast shadows of birds
No oceanic flowers disrobing butterflies
or bright beach of child's porridge and bones—

                                                                                         Instead, someone weaving

a net from fallen hair in and around our bed
to catch the breath, blood, and ritual
motions that oiled us
                                               as one candle in a cave

In your dreams, someone is always resisting being saved

My teeth are on fire, you say I said

Don't fly for the labyrinth, once
I thought you were admonishing me to go away
I don't remember most others, a thousand seasons
phonographed in through a wounded window

Everyone can't have a cactus

Just o.k. empty all the rice from my legs

Once I awoke screaming, paws red-hot embers
You opened my mouth and poured a night-cold river in

Once you died and my heart fished all winter

Once we were eating lunch inside a kiln

Once you thought you smelled death,
but the lavender farm was too large to shave

On the fifth straight morning I'd dreamt of water
I stared at your face, its nacreous lids, 
and I swear I could see a Glorious Ghost shifting
over your sun-warm waves

Water my birth sign, and one day my mother's death
that protect-fills my love with sadness

There, in words to my coworkers
it was still dripping, in my nods
over a galapagos of pages and forms

All love is immigrant, that autumn apparently
I mumbled

Your reply, after days: Turn off the steam in the trees

Somewhere right now, two lovers are conversing
without even knowing what their lives mean

One's heart gazelle-quick to survey a mountain his dead
           father is always vandalizing
The other frequently misplacing her hair, ears, or self-
sabotaging a crime

One usually struggling to stay alive
The other often untethering something

Or is it my mitochondria that powder-sugars the moon?
And you calcifying a promise inside to inscribe?

There is a dominion where inverses
invert until only terror, love, and imagination cling,

heavy, on human branches—enter your vista, phylum
unsequenced, dimmer deeds

Can you hear it tonight?
Wind in iron jars buried inside the living:
Grandmothers, past spouses, cable men, priests

Now! I finally manage
as our train smokes out all the rats on their bed of leaves

All night, I dive
down to the soft structures of some blue civilization's faith

In this myth of life, I keep forgetting whose ideas and
sensations I'm supposed to be

Come morning: rain, trees, silvery
sleet
           and daily, this new fresh bounty
                                                                                 we share, side by side
like angels coming home from work at a pearl factory

"Night Work" by Ed Bok Lee from WHORLED by Ed Bok Lee, copyright © 2011 Coffee House Press. Used by permission of Coffee House Press.

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