for Garrett Scott, November 19, 1969 – March 2, 2006
Those boys, the ones you filmed in Fallujah,
they were drowning too. That’s why
when they patrol the streets of that desert city
in night vision, in your film, I can’t watch it anymore,
not without feeling this pressure
behind my eyes and inside my ears,
for softly you opened your mouth inside the god,
at the bottom of the deep end,
and sunlight slides in at an angle
through the leaded windows
to the rustling of fir needles,
and here I am, at a writers colony,
6 weeks after I met Lt. Basik at your wake, on crutches,
because they had to amputate his foot.
It’s unthinkable: to have filmed, for the very first time,
an IED exploding, not sixty feet away from your humvee,
only to return to San Diego
to have a heart attack in a swimming pool.
Lie back, turn onto one side,
carry a palm across my chest in a free-style crawl.
The pressure just grows.
When I press my palms to my ears and cry out,
trying to imagine how your eardrums must have had to explode,
all I can hear is each second curiously undoing the next.
and instead of water flooding into your lungs, the light,
God’s syrupy genitalia, streams
through this place, where you wait at the deep end, without a body.
There’s a crucifix on the wall, missing its Christ.
I wait here too, in an empty bed, a human pudding
the ooze in your golden locks
has been laved into, into a nectar,
scratched by the scamper of a squirrel’s feet
on the copper roof,
the sound of those locks being picked. Open up.
The god will still be screaming at his feet,
this clothed, naked ape
still occupying the bed instead of ash,
chips of bone, preserved in honey
in a funeral urn. And your body sinks so decisively
to the bottom, even though
they’ve already divided up your ashes
between them: one syllable cancels out the next
to the tune of the sidling light, and the pearling
of a turtle dove, and so on.
It is blood that is streaming and blood that is spilled,
you can see right through it,
like water, or air, having passed back through your lungs,
and so it has been twice made,
at the exact same weight we shared, 49 kilos,
once for you, once for me,
and the balance of that weight now
is zero. I can feel it, a little tremolo when I talk,
and if something has been erased,
replaced by glittering needles,
then it isn’t hard to imagine
that everything, just this once, has been uncreated,
especially in this coppery light,
and that kneeling inside of it,
would be like kneeling underwater,
and to cry out when you did as it withdrew,
leaving behind this alienated substance in which I lie,
would be like touching the copper mask
of my own face, through which I see
drops of sap burning in the late light,
a sleek honeyeater,
balanced with its tail against the trunk.
The tiny waterfall in the distance
is silent and white.
I have come to occupy this body for a while,
where the smeared face of it
goes in human form, on this piece of paper:
“I have many faces, but only one is branded to my skin,”
even as the light completes its favorite trick
of draining away. The occupation begins now,
in a darkened room: I am wakened
into my fear of touch again.