Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2012 v11n1
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In Harmony

I speak to harmonicas, the angel inside
seizuring toward some hell. My body can’t handle
its breath all wailmouth, all vent and scream.

Men who play their spit against
its copper hum yearn to close wounds
whistling from their fingertips.

Back in Memphis, my Great God
Aunt’s neighbors split seraphim from their wings
more than any sooth-slick Devil could.

Archangels crack against air like beetle carcasses.
She used to say slaves’ voices tumbled
from the whine. Her mythology’s logic

seems sound—even
trees were seen leaning in
as though hearing someone familiar.

Maybe harmonica is neck creak
stretched into confession, a drinking gourd
spilling its constant stream of bones.

The pines’ green is shadow soft
and sings like a hinge, like a choir
of harmonicas soldered to an uncle’s teeth.

Why question if he’s ever
seen ghosts? They’re right
at the tip of his tongue.

At the tip of his tongue, a slit spills white noise
at a frequency too low to dance to. But there is a boogie

man in the ball sack. Kneeling
is the position that runs off demons.

I’ve known God to rise
like a white rabbit from the hat-

less head of a man who never knew God
would answer to my mouth’s pleading spin.

I teach religion like Babel: down, with a humility
throat-knotted and blind as dust.

I was sure he would taste like pianissimo
thrashed by a saxophone’s impatient treble.

I was sure his whispers were Tongue clicking
his Holy Ghost a million lip trills per second.
He’d whisper something foul to set the mood,
to push his stutter-mouth into mine
so that I may, for him, speak his confessions:

there is not a man inside this fort of sandstone and silt     
I’ve kissed a man into an abomination most profound

If I spit into the toilet what’s left,
will the foggy water become a crystal ball’s
clarifying glass, spiraling what’s next before the next flush?
I’m tired of ghosts and their ephemeral whines.
I send their voices down one wave at a time.    

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