I PACK MY HEART IN ICE

To keep it well-preserved

Like when one loses a finger or a limb 

And time raced, can be sewn back in.

But it beats fast — a primitive hymn 

Unwinds clocks till they no longer chime

Time keeps as still as the kind

Of ice that keeps the organ 

Ready to transplant back into a body.

The heart flutters a blue kill

Arctic estuaries, glacial thaw, 

The body a globe too warmed by

rays and vapor. For in ashes

Does a heart lay beating

Frothing fire from its rhythmic draw

Liquifying the ice that keeps it neat

Like Chernobyl she keeps seeping

Years after the initial blow.

Isn’t it something?—How ash 

Resembles snow. Fire’s aperitif

A dove-grey confetti floats 

Gently like the flakes that preserve

Our greatest assets. Our seeds and organs 

Subject to the catastrophe 

Of melt. Just like our hearts

Before    they leave our chests

DIVORCE

 

An obstacle is supposed to be something in the way. An object. Implying duality. That’s you. That’s me. That’s you, again. Soaking up the reeds at high velocity. Around your head a caustic crown. Thorns cut off in favor of blades. Your head was always so heavy, no wonder your heart had to work twice as hard. But it’s no use fighting for a clap in a cup, as quiet as the lightning that struck it down. There’s no use for blades or a tear torn from the glade of an eye bent on resolving sound. For its waves have revolved around and around till both our heads bled to the beat of the pulse that silently lead to the furrowing of our ancient crown and blessed us with dread.

 

To take this tear is to transplant the entire sea of us into the indentation of a fingerprint — forever altering it. Next time it’s dipped in ink, a drop will appear there, blurring who was born and who became. Defining only its center whilst splattering the edge.

ODE TO THIN SKIN

 

In my hands you bouquet — singed. Each stem 

a possibility 

Unrooted. Each bit of crumbed soil proof of unearthing

 

I don’t know if my hands are mine anymore. Or just another vessel for holding those prone to expiration. I hold you up to the light

Examine translucence for veins

A sign the heart ticks

The wiring askew, an open heart circuitry 

Awaiting odds. 

 

Where my hands are, a crevasse starts to form

Dripping into doves eclipsed

Dripping foliage and stillborn leaves.

The vase is very clear. It is the ice slipping.

The petals candied we can’t catch

In our mouths

Crunch underfoot

awakening — the way Winter does to Spring.

When I call, you crawl out of my mouth 

in full bloom

SEEPING

 

As armor segways into flesh

Big bullets beat the brain

The breath a heated muffle

Metallic and plain

The biggest battle is the one within. Though

Started somewhere on the outside 

Like a wheel collecting snow

A carriage carrying forth between drops

As melt and hardness combine packing in tight simultaneously, seeping

CONCAVE

Has the heart atrophied? Or its rim?—where the vessel’s hammered in. Our blacksmith makes origami fray. With each breath a sizzled raspberry sinks in. A whole body medieval.   Still pumping and needing       to be pumped. The organ most futile is the skin. 

 

When I walk with you    It is the bones I wear inside-out.  So that you can’t make me limber enough to enfold you. So that I can’t become your shell even though I want to. So that were you the ocean that made me crust   I’d know how to skim its floor for scraps and contain their dew draping osmosis gently (paused) over the flood

 

You see, what has metabolically been burnt by fate   Is what makes this fountain overrun     blushing bones on the way     Coral — where a hand carved what was supposed to be     a pump     But instead, just gave way

EEL

You can almost see the pale groove 

Throbbing indigo

Walking dimorphic

Upright in bruises

Wading through salt

And blue 

Fanciful feet clasping pearls

Brow of delphinium

I am all sea, no fury

All brine no froth

 

Sometimes I can’t decide if it’s the 90-pound decibels of pressure that stopped my heart 

Or the electric eel, my pacemaker

that writhed

up through the full stop

Only to realize it’s fueled by toxic shock

Just long enough for an echo to return

from a gullet

Come boomerang back as a gill 

Make this phantom limb to feel

Where nothing’s in the way

 

I’m just six decibels between a laugh and a tear

A rubber rock and a big black bouquet 

Listening high-pitched like a dog

Translucent     immune to decay

It’s utterly untrue, by the way

My skin sheds down in one fell swoop

Dusting a sovereign name

With loose spools unwound

A reunion for a game

Translucently blind

Lids overcome with light

blinking negative space

into aftershock

ASH

 

I am a myth wrapped in embers

Ovid swings in my hips

a rabid starling unfurls 

wind in born-again form

Whose countenance can maintain

its blasphemous plain

its finality of pores

breathing like micro-anemones

suckling each sway of nervous tor

Here is a bounty arming scope

to devour beyond the hunt

to delight in carbon forced out green

when it’d already lived

fate of star’s black whip

Soon a martyr calls to clip 

its wings beg air to drip its name

Until the denizens of another place

another continent have

safeguarded their alms

Somewhere today ash rains and

someone breathes and someone burns

FAMILY PORTRAIT

 

See the portrait of us on the wall, 

the one with no canvas, just a frame.

Our fingerprints made of chalk

Playing a dusty game

Your lips were sour. My whisper guttural.

I know this will all begin again when

we’re done for good. I know it’s only a matter of 

time before obsidian 

can be called aged lava. Before canticles of what 

you failed to know

and what I failed to hit you over the head with

have fallen from grace. There is no grace

in spewed ash. Only in distance. 

As though when far enough away, a mushroom cloud

signals not doom, but merely a nebulous shape

out of which rain will be harvested

and drop acidic lakes. If time was never

a factor, perhaps the ant’s view of its army

would overrule its embered fate. Perhaps we’d

wipe out a planet and be the only survivors left

to procreate. But here we are with time 

as a factor… 

when on earth is it not?

ASSEMBLED

 

As though every 

flower’s assembly depends 

upon the earth’s crust

Vines like a blind wisteria

ushered cups tilt synchronous molecular

antibody to the fall

Nostrils are tendrils assembled backwards. Draped louvre of anti-smoke and battered oak

you bride of no one nor widow a fingernail

has breached the black spring harbored 

black soil and sprouted. No — armed

the sky with perfume. The lever that locks an arm

into bullets wilts into skinned arcs;

some semblances are equipped mechanics others

flounder when found. 

 

Stones are dropped

muscles, breath a trick the lungs

learned one day they had to quit the gill and

just fucking gulp. 

Air too thick to pump.

You see these nails? Those are extensions of private Mars.

Rocky and cleft to trudge but split-prone

at regular slight irregular edges. I’ve used 

every one I had left down to the nub. Every knuckle 

really just a receding claw. Hair? Every joint has a

purpose. Hair? Whose purpose eludes into a million strands

of literally dead comfort. The parts that shed and die the quickest cling on the longest

serving us, still.

BRINE

 

The eye’s brine 

Collects in paraffin 

Waxing dark into dusk

A reminder that would a tear fall

And be caught, not harden through gravity’s lure to shatter but instead, 

to roll, bluntly soft

Be collected and congeal 

The dark salt would merely be the brine

That lit the sky from the back burner.

For all eyes to ponder

As its supine fall embalms 

Wondrous light 

Emblazons witnesses of dusk

Unearths the minds of men—

That were a single expression expressed 

through a pliant drop, a thousand more 

could be said through the sea, 

the foment of an oar with teeth, 

the wonder of a well 

Atrophied by the heart 

PILL

What if this world’s just a side effect
of a pill that won’t slide down
a willow past its weeping
or the palate cleft left hanging
a screw left loose 
like a beggar kneeling
or a knife jutting not in but out 

Liveliness sheds a second skin
until the body snakes its way through
The same way a snake swallows
large, live prey whole
at the persistence of a pliable stomach
The same way the tiniest pill can seem
to go down yet, 
itches like a motherfucker 
and wretches back out from whence it came—
the wrong way, who’s to say?

 

PSALM

One threshold above the heart lies a valve, 

porous and heeding 

It hums a blanched hymn.

Pulverized rockets leak through the stem

Cortisol is raised. Indefinitely.

What does that do to a body whose gate lay open and unguarded as the wind pipes through it, a song?

White noise is another name for dark hymn.

All it takes for definition is a vibrant glow from within

Then, what of the pipe jutting out of the heart

when the muscle caves after 

too many jumpstarts?

Can we blow hard into it — inflate 

the whole organ with another element?

Balloon it 

then quickly bind 

as to not let it deflate again?

 

All the nerves have been buttoned up in Sunday’s Finest.

See how the white hymns fire 

To dusky pleats 

Fiber optics fray to petals

Then: sensation. Emptiness reams like paper

Too thin to pulp, to beat back to tree

All the nerves dance in white coats 

Myelinated sheaves powering 

The upper sleeves

All this is to say the heart gloats 

In its sterile lab coat while nerves

Dream of sheep, also dressed in coats

White as fleece, fuzzy 

As white noise 

drowning out holy bells

TECTONIC PLATES

 

It is quiet now. No earth rumbles ripping

Heaven out of the ground

We are two tectonic plates ribbed

With a gaping hole between

The wind funnels through it

Like a dragon riding a wave

Apart from that, it is still. Placid. Violent inside. 

Every time I look across you appear

A little inch further. As though land were the 

Antidote to space. Heart’s anti-venom

Licks the wound between.

We are not done yet. Every time the ground shakes, a new chance is made. It’s just a matter of time. Like how our bodies move making waves of their own

To form a body anew. 

This is the way continents form and drift apart. 

Except I don’t know what are we—Land or sea? Or the rift itself

Etching a scar like a new vein

Pulsing life away from the heart

flooding the black abyss between us

with colored dark

© 2019 by G.N. Sterling