He isn’t giving me any answers.
His book of scripture is open on the floor.
If I lean in close, with my lips next to his ear,
He whispers back verse after verse.
It’s no use trying to bridge this world and that.
There is an allision of my joy
Against his fixed self.
Like a bird against the window,
His reflection is unmoved
By my strike of flight.
There are far more important things in this world than I.
I never knew what it meant to be headless.
Rumi says it is the loss of self to God.
In that case—
I have just a few more questions:
Where do I go, to get to the cumin fields?
Where does the Holy begin and end?
If you don’t talk, I’ll take you to Andalusia
And stick you right in the middle
Of the Arcos de Frontera. You’ll have to break
I’ll let you go, if you promise to be my psychopomp.
You were right, after all, pain doesn’t matter.
I’ve learned so much from you.
I never knew that pots are broken at funerals
Because in the other world they are whole.
We have gotten to know one another so well. I could
Capture you and recapture you. Here I am standing
In the words between us, and what are you? Martin
Buber said, He is You and fills the firmament. Is that
What you meant? The fluorescent droplight swings
On its cord. My father had one like that, did yours?
It swung in the basement over the spinning blades
Of saws. They cost hundreds of dollars, machines
Screaming, the smell of pine shavings, cat urine,
And Old Spice. I hid from him. Did you love your
Father? Your chest smells like sawdust. I know
So much about you. You come straight out of my
Basement like a bad dream, ready to explode. I run
Through the labyrinth of your heart and mine; where
Does one country begin and the other end? Never mind
The confusion, there are checkpoints and dragon’s teeth
To keep things in order. Where were you, the morning after
I spent the night in Hamburg, nineteen and on ecstasy?
I might have loved you then, but you were just a thing,
A photograph of two men kissing. No, I forgot. It was 1989
And there was a war on in some far off country. You
Were there, much younger than me, still a child
In your mother’s lap, the smell of her like apples
And rose bushes. Her mouth tasted like bitter almonds.
Where did you get that giant head? It looks like Goliath.
I would call that contraband. I think there will be
Repercussions. I’ll have to turn you in, again.
Heather Derr-Smith is the author of two books of poetry: Each End of the World (Main Street Rag Press, 2005), and The Bride Minaret (University of Akron Press, 2008). Her poems have also appeared in Fence, Crazyhorse, Pleiades, and Phoebe. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is currently the Visiting Poet at Iowa State University.