Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2011 v10n1
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From Three Words of a Magnetic Poetry Set Found Caked in Dirt
Beneath James Merrill’s Last Refrigerator

     |Crimson|  |Ring|  |Touch|

It’s true, there is no substitute for touch,
for the kiss that sets a world in motion.
One caress is all it takes, watch any nurse
in a delivery ward; each warm fingerprint

is gift. Whole histories of the heart
could be devoted to what passes
in an instant, from the snow of old skin
tumbling like dazed moths in a blizzard

of sunlight to what turns crimson
when the lit red fuse passes from lip
to tongue in a kiss first registered
as shock then recognized, taken in—

inseen. As when your true love
says, “Your lips—a kissable music,”
before nodding off. Leaving your mouth,
that inflamed ripe monogram of O,

an unkissed wish, that tremor
in your bones, restored. The residue
of touch, the lipstick crimson rings—
a nutrient set to spreading in an instant.

Or at the promise of the touch to come,
a single note struck in the choir of itself,
when made to sing in us, is madrigal—
a resonance of every clear perception

of the world, even disappointment,
which might otherwise make for
a language cacophonous. But when
such sound takes residence in us,

the resonance instead becomes the love
we can do least without, the color of
a tapped black note, a surface shaped in
pressure—fissure, fault—of pigment, ink—

a single stroke, hoisted in the rafters of the mind;
which is just another way to know the origin
of touch as curative. (Being a little “touched”
is unavoidable.) But like a constellation

reflected perfectly then blurred in a wading pool
stirred by hand, the silver rings turn crimson
in a heart exposed, as if by touch alone, one
person, one life, might keep the world in motion.  end

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