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Farewell (and Hello Again)

                             The physical world is meanintonight
                             And there is no other.

                                                                      Wallace Stevens

In the asylum's cadaver room,

a janitor holds his lantern in wonder
over a bucket of breasts cut from the month's dead.

It cannot be like this, we gasp.
It doesn't work this way.

            If it helps: they were sick, insane.

O.K., I know, I know, it doesn't help

For now, try to forget the janitor, the bucket
what grows around us, around our hearts.


As in: sit up straight.
                           As in: the whole, the aggregate.

The heart gets bigger as it die
and I can feel it growing sometimes:

blue heron swelling above the river's tremble,

                pushing itself away from all it knows.

But for the heart's voice, the body would disappear

into itself, shrinking like the flooded field
of horsetail reeds on this riverbank.


The heart's growth, I’m sure, has nothing

to do with love, or the body

                           which could be the same at times.

in the eyeglasses of the janitor,

each desperate version needing the other so deeply
that even the janitor looks away from the buildings

                and back towards the river,

already ashamed at what the body can do,

                                           the reeds.


Tumor: lamb's ear: gray button of nipple:
                           barrel of Saint Agnes: Agnes in
the trees

We stare at it until it becomes us
and we walk away

with a fist‑sized lump in our pocket,

humming a sad tune in case someone passing by
thinks we're happy.

. We wrapped it.

                Try not to blame the heart

It is soft and is filled with us,
the filaments of cherry blossom, silent cathode.

The heart exists to grow, and to take a breast
from the bucket would mean treason of the body

                How can we speak of it?

This is the conversation we didn't want
to have.

                Of course it has to do with love.
the body, however, can only go so far until it wears down,
we’re left with the janitor, faceless in his overalls,

his hands alive with touching a softness that is completely new

                and our hands beginning to memorize that softness.


Knowing this won't help much
We want a face, a guilty look over a shoulder.

                           the sky from
the river’s long road.

asylum, its awnings loose and ruined
in the wind, the patients dressing the radiators
with soiled

            No, not that one.

The heart can confuse. A field of reeds, hen,
a sycamore, the janitor undressing on the riverbank.
around it.

                           If its ossible, and I'm not sure if it is.


                           Thorn‑grove of the blind:handsome lamb: harvest this day.

It's how a sycamore glowing in the
beside a barn becomes ours now

                           by simply being there, existing.


We no longer have to stare.

It is ours as we swim in darkness
to a lighted boat across the river,
in the bottom's current

are at first amazed with the white oval of flesh,
halo of the above, until it dissolves in their claws,

            becomes nothing, and the river remains.
a heron flying low
in the distance over a

and a heron mangled by wild dogs at your feet:

            the faint metallic taste of silt,

            our wrinkled hands dry and strange,

our lover lying naked in the bow under a lantern,
eager for the promised gift,

the heart‑shaped face of mutiny  .  

*Previously published in Backwards City Review, this piece will be in the forthcoming chapbook  The Scenery of Farewell (And Hello Again) from Diode Editions.


Joshua Poteat has published two books of poems, Ornithologies (Anhinga Poetry Prize, 2006) and Illustrating the Machine that Makes the World (University of Georgia Press, 2009), as well as two chapbooks, Meditations (Poetry Society of America, 2004) and For the Animal (Diagram/New Michigan Press, 2013). Originally from Hampstead, North Carolina, Joshua lives in Richmond, Virginia.