"when he comes back like the wound
and you are the stitch..."
Bob Sward's Writer's Friendship Series
Need to Know
12: The Necessary Ear
11: The Necessary Eye
Issue 10: Out on a Limb
Issue 9: The Missing Body
Issue 8: The Lily
Issue 7: Passages
Issue 6: No More Tears
harris county chain gang
they trial me. truss me. trade me downriver for a book full of words
that spells out my month-long sentence. they want to shrink my
castle of will down to outhouse stink. they want me to reek of
crapped out snake eyes and deathbed moan.
they want me to forget me. to forget i am flesh. i am one. we, black
forever of bent shoulder, bowed head, bonded voice swinging a
cemeteried freight of penitentiary chain. we steady thud of wind
with lungs that empty moon, fill it back up with shine, feed my feet
to pig iron anklets biting flesh where i am chain. i am flesh. i am
link. i will break. bleed, crack. shatter. crush.
i'ma smash outta this choir, come up gasping new breath, my name
burned clean, made mine.
after it's birthed you whole and fucked you dry. after it's straddled, rode,
and stolen your sense. after your fist has swung brute magic through bone
and then bloomed fingers wide for caress. after you've nearly killed it and
gladly killed for it. after it's cunted you down and kicked you in the cold.
after you've left it tear dropped tongue torn. after you've heaved up
and hollered the sunrise and sea salt of its name till your throat is a
hurricane of want - before and after all of this, the body of woman stands
and if you are lucky, she steps slow to the screen door of a shotgun shack
and eases your rambling inside. if you are lucky, you find the hard and soft
parts of yourself, blued, crumpled, crying in her hands.
martha promise receives leadbelly, 1935
when your man comes home from prison,
when he comes back like the wound
and you are the stitch,
when he comes back with pennies in his pocket
and prayer fresh on his lips,
you got to wash him down first.
you got to have the wildweed and treebark boiled
and calmed, waiting for his skin like a shining baptism
back into what he was before gun barrels and bars
chewed their claim in his hide and spit him
stumbling backwards into screaming sunlight.
you got to scrub loose the jailtime fingersmears
from ashy skin, lather down the cuffmarks
from ankle and wrist, rinse solitary's stench loose
from his hair, scrape curse and confession
from the welted and the smooth,
the hard and the soft,
the furrowed and the lax.
you got to hold tight that shadrach's face
between your palms, take crease and lid
and lip and brow and rinse slow with river water,
and when he opens his eyes
you tell him calm and sure
how a woman birthed him
back whole again.