45: coma in cantos, canto 5

canto 5

Henry and his freckles
are patient with me.
He says, as I wait
for a camel to appear on his arm–
his arms are continents
of ruddy, sometimes bleared
congregations of melanin
(I told him once: Henry,
Henry, I said, the Milky Way
traverses your back, right blade
to waist, and he said,
why are you staring at my
–you’re wrong,
and the camel appears.

But I want to answer
why I watched his back:
it’s true, I said, because I’m attending
to the weight of you,
because you carry everything
in your skin–there a dog,
there a horse, there a face
of someone I once knew.
I can watch you
for hours and days.

you don’t understand,
your image of the dead
is confined to what you can
make with language: heaven,
he said, you’ve interpreted as a place.
You imagine a dead man opening
a door or a window, putting his head
through, and whispering: it’s all true
to some ignorant, but that’s your problem.

yes, yes, he said: he may make a stone
he may not lift and not do it, too,
which is devilry, the devil’s gift to us
was, indeed, language.

I respond: that’s one way, I understand
Aquinas’s communalism excuse:
that heaven is not a place, and so, I ask:
how might the joke be interpreted
by those communing with your image
of god (and with it your language of excuses)
who must suddenly
recall all the psalmisms or now,
commingling, in their new placeless state,
enjoy a spirited totalistic synesthesia,
which is a reward for faithkeeping,
such a grand reward for such
a simple thing.

And he laughs at my employ
of the adjective and noun: simple thing.
I step back some: yes, I know,
I say: there are few simple things,
as on his arm a caravan appears
and I wonder where it might
be going, to what edge
to drop over
and into what water fall.

on this city street, now,
Henry diminishes in size
against the bizarre, iron,
dreams of long-dead architects,
and I send a last goodbye,
whose response is lost in a swell
of sudden engines laughing
at the departure of the red
behind green, going now

I shout to him:
Thomas of Aquino was a fool.

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