J. Townsend

22.  the   rupture               passed 
                        skin or sand             a
            soft     trickling     against
                                             smooth   glass
                        pink,                green,       darken






                                                23.    Acute at                     tongue
                                                            burned                        skin,     a
                                                      mass of            smoke                 rolled
                                                            flashes of   ecstatic             light







                        24. midst the               layers, lipid
                                    shaking   at, the       sterile
                            needle,             skin            opening
                                    words     pouring in
                                       divine white                         blood-cells




                                    25.     pale     skin at            eye
                                                            level       closer,  below
                                           deform      a        jagged edge
                                                             of   cells      blooming







26. puncture                        seal of
            soft red      a
   leg muscle                           swell
                 skin                        rises
       curving      to          gold








                                                                                    27. black   flame   from   sky
                                                                                                to   skin   ark   is
                                                                                           engraved arm
                                                                                                scars   a    border     the
                                                                                    ink stains                        raised

            28. abscess             a   flower growth
                               system's       strange    glow
                    flux of                        birdsong
                                    beneath the skin







                                                                                    29. cords            flutter heavy     at
                                                                                                breath              tips   broken,  move
                                                                                                            in corners,   halting
                                                                                                   grey  skin         sinks, gently








                                    30.  foam at    mouth
                                                    eye     whites
                                              coldskin        trembles
                                                            to   push       out
                                    a ghost
                                                            or legion





“Below a Slow Ascent” is a series of 60 parts (so far) that attempts to trace the connection between physical sickness and spiritual enlightenment. I began working on the series, in part, as a reflection on concepts brought up in Peter O'Leary's book Gnostic Contagion: Robert Duncan and a Poetics of Illness. Other source material includes Kierkegaard, later Maximus Poems, and Frank Samperi. Each numbered piece is an attempt to create a cell, or self-contained porous unit that can, when combined with other pieces, compose a larger body. The projected goal for the entire series is a book-length manuscript, 300 pieces grouped into several sections, or "systems." The first 18 parts of the series were published in the Fall 2008 issue of GAM.