IV. On blessed and ever-memorable obedience

BY Margaret Bashaar

Open a hole in the back of your throat.
When the hands pass through your body
it will be as easy as breathing.
You can decode anything with the right cipher -
radio static, the silence between measures.
What else can you do with all these algorithms,
all these long strings of zeroes?
Know this - it is two different things,
to scratch at your skin
until it bleeds and to let the flesh
of your palm bloom to a flower.


X. On slander or calumny

When you peel back the hangnail,
when you dislodge the arrowhead from
your skin notice how your teeth grit,
how your pinked flesh hums in that moment
before the blood comes.
You have always known what you would do
if the house caught fire, if the glass shattered.
You have always known the shape
of a man’s mouth when he lies,
how hot your neighbor’s breath.
This is not the final straw.
This is not the step-ball-change
you thought it was.


XVIII. On insensibility, that is, deadening of the soul and the death of the mind before the death of the body

I am breathing out dust all the time now, dear,
each exhale a cloud, a commotion.
My skin is more hollow each time you touch me -
I have never known such long silence
as when my body is parallel to yours.
You are learning the names of stars,
you are memorizing the periodic table.
I am trying to recall the words to
that song - you know the one.
I am trying to remember who that song was for.


XX. On bodily vigil and how to use it to attain spiritual vigil, and how to practice it

When the rat scurries
across the floor,
when birds explode
from the bonfire,
do not move.
When your legs are tied
in a pretty bow
do not cut them off,
do not follow the line
to make them straight.
When your head
begins to tilt,
your eyes cross, my dear,
uncurl your back.
The night
is not always for sleeping.
God is counting your prayers.
He stacks them
in a file like a clerk.
When the claxon wails
he already knows
who you will save,
the difference between
your first phone call
and the one you want to make.
So peel your body back,
the need for it.
Keep your eyes open and get well.
If I tell you enough times
I am not hungry
someday I
will be the one who believes it.


Listen to poems from our National Poetry Month "30/30" combo issue!

Margaret Bashaar's most recent chapbook, Letters from Room 27 of the Grand Midway Hotel was published by by Blood Pudding Press in 2011. She edits the chapbook micro press Hyacinth Girl Press and her poetry has also appeared in publications such as elimae, Caketrain, So to Speak, Boxcar Poetry Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband, her son, and far too many typewriters which may or may not be haunted.