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Poetry by Sam Witt
'Adagio' by Guthrie Lowe
'Imperialist Shuffle'  2007 Lenka Manning-Warder
'Imperialist Shuffle' by Lenka Manning-Warder

Imperfect Griever


The second shift of bodies consists in this:
if tomorrow you will still be dead, then yesterday,
I’ll be waking up with your gun in my mouth,

fingered by that detached mechanism
we’ve come here to drop in the harbor.
Choppy waters; wind, a handful of bullets,

slapping my silly face. At the harbor,
the dead loved one becomes interjected within you,
but I wasn’t born that way.

Became interjected within the depleted blood in your veins,
already incinerated, that’s what the light in my body conceals,
when I shake this handful of bullets at the harbor.

(Afterwards, I called from friend to friend,
just to be the one to tell them, just to hear them talk about you
in the present tense and correct themselves.

I mean this literally, working backwards from your death,
as a disarticulation, limb from limb, the water
being drawn back out of the lungs in a reversed gasp

that explodes your heart back into itself,
back through this enlarged second
and bursting into now: bum ticker still ticking; you,

still reachable by phone; no box of fucked up shit
under your bed, a gun in it, a press pass, a pair of goggles. . .)
The evacuation itself took seconds.

She called, around midnight, I forgot your face for a moment,
and that was it: I heard your never to be sated laughter respond,
with its thin placenta of ruined light,

I hear it now, floating on top of the waters,
the only indication of a womb, wrinkling and unwrinkling
to let this delivery seep through.

The tides just empty me instead.
They’ve been emptying me all month,
and I am sick unto death

of your single deranged sense.
How can a month contain so many rooms of light
tugging fiercely at my wept corners, and me,

posing drunkenly with this gun in each one of them,
this gun that weights my pocket down now.
When I drop a handful of bullets into the water,

I drop bells; each, with its own particular timbre
to flesh out this dirge, is extinguished,
just like your tongue was, with a little splash.

Imperfect griever, conflict diamond,
splash of cold weight, all my life
I’ve read about the sacred knowledge of death,

but I proclaim now that being born is the only absolute,
and rise into this scum without taste.
Spilled out it floats at the top of the water,

where the water floats on top of itself,
dark with excessive bright it consists only of feeling.
I’m here, back in the guts,

lashed into your checkered coat
to listen to this siren, having engorged and digested herself,
that my hands, especially, reek of it: enlarged heart, garbage,

floating on brackish waters, smoke, voices,
carried in from across the harbor.
We came here to deposit your piece in the harbor,

and say goodbye. So. All day I’ve been waiting for the moon
to rise into a luminous, pale blue, something fresh
and invisible, something uncried,

all at the top of the sky. I’m waiting for it now.
But the gun in my pocket has weighted it down.
Sharing this grief, it’s like having three bodies

in one steady convulsion of the chest,
to have that much fluid taken out of you, directly through the face,
and when I turned, just now, it split us back into three

from where it lay there on the horizon,
at the end of 39th Street, enlarged, ready to burst,
still somehow deflated, as if somebody had fired on it,

partially suspiring pregnancy in a bloated orange.
It just looked so heavy that I’d come here
into the aching behind my eyes, armed with an empty bag of skin,

that there be a rotten, whispering fruitishness, a body
to its warped, grown-out-of-a-thumbnail crescent,
painting the waters with its chemical,

and I provide the appropriate metal.
As of that moment, you were still dead.
I held the gun, loaded to the harbor,

that was still sinking above the glow of its ruined warehouses,
brooding over the tip of the island with a ghostful vibration
off the freeway, with broken strings and light.

By the rattling links, all three of us,
each with a hand on the gun, disappeared like a sound,
and I respond with a kind of soaked walk.

I push you when we dropped the gun—
this three-handed engine at 90%, I push,
and split us back into traffic, waking, spilled warehouses,

bloated with stilts, razorwire, broken gin bottles,
embedded in the ruptured pudding I call home,
back in the box, and far up above us, in boxes of light

a sewing machine sweatshop still floats.
The month had been taking my body and brain,
dressed only in white, an oily labor rising to where I stood,

waiting to deposit sleep; by the rattling quarter,
by this sandblasted facility,
I have been deployed within myself to breathe,

I have strapped on these greaves
to wade through the split zipper in your clock
and confront the animal,

to wrestle with its very own hour,
and just as I run my fingers
along the side of your spilt wound

to dislodge something new, and crisp, and cold,
my fingers freezing and uncurling into the water
as I squat by the landing,

a steam whistle goes off behind me in the dark,
and the second shift is over.
Being dead is still your job.

Drop this commerce of shape over and over,
into that pale blue hole in the water,
Nebulous trickery of bodies: Open to accept it.

Go on confusing me, especially in dreams,
when you didn’t die after all, as it turns out, and putting my hands on you—
I can almost tip you over, you’re so fragile,

I push my hand through your wobbly chest—
if you didn’t die, I ask, then where were you at the wake,
when I read that poem?

But the perfect griever is the incinerated mouth itself,
and you never answer; when I wake, it’s like I’m the one who didn’t show up.
The dark I cast below me to deposit sinking

into each of our bodies,
where I sleep, on either side of the harbor bottom,
its buffed, glistening, hospital floors

spilled on the surface above me,
it’s not a dark I can wake from; I know that
from this neon buzzing scratched into my ear,

(there’s a number too, scratched into my skull):

Stay in your body, just a little while longer.
As long as each moment
persist in plagiarizing itself, back and forth—

the three of us will still be walking down here,
steady wind rattling the shallow bells
of that tear in the chain link fence once again,

each moment content to drown itself
quite perfectly into the next.
Even your body, soaked, uncold,

not yet ash and chips of bone, will remain,
so long as the last angel shall fire off this gun.
But only the gun itself will come floating back up

to the top of the water when He says Rise.

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last update: July 2, 2007