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We want to see.  Not god, but dog.  Crucified, too, we heard.  Beneath the asylum, tunnels.  In one of them, a cistern.  In that, a mound of concrete sledgehammered and pickaxed to dirt.  We heard, but didn’t see.  On the mound, a plywood cross—each plank three feet.  We heard, but didn’t see.  A smooth-shank roofing nail through each paw.  On the hill in a tunnel, we heard, the fur stained the darkness golden.  Long since retrieved, the Dollar-Store tiara—silver glitter still behind the ears. Jowls, lips, and teeth streaked with red lipstick.  We want to see.  Not seeing hell is a kind of hell.  We heard the motes of dust settled where the tongue lulled.  


Psychiatric ruin.  Pharmaceutical zoo.  Haven a shard of its name once.  We bring enough E to make it heaven.  The plywood shutters were pried open prior to us.  We are still trespassing.  We are still breaking.  We wedge ourselves through the window and step into the intake room.  A drip’s echo lends the dark its dimensions.  The flashlights lend us our memories of them: counter, wall-mounted chairs, water fountain fixture, no fountain.   Files scattered into a new floor.  An account of something unseen that died nearby told by the buzzing of flies.  Some water.  A flood.  An alibi.


There is a kid our age in our subdivision.  There are many.  But this one claims prophecy.  We’re convinced he canvases the cul-de-sacs for animals.  Pets.  Strays.  Sacrifices.  We consider that we, too, could be animals.  Of course, of the nicest order.  Animals, nice or not, can be made of anything.  We believe there must be an unseen cult of culverts and boyhood stalking these lawns. We fear what snatches our many-legged from our porches and driveways and ghosts them in the hedges.  We’re convinced, though, whoever he is, he is the Dog-Head.


What we bring to heaven: flashlights.  Batteries.  An aluminum baseball bat.  At least one crowbar.  Clothes the color of crows.  The need to wait until nightfall.  A duffel bag filled with spray paint canisters.  Bottle rockets.  A half-polished bottle of Jack.  My Manrikikusari, which we can’t pronounce, so it becomes chain, which we canA length we still can’t wield without bruises. 


Because god is a crime committed by everybody.  Because our community was almost crime-less.  Because of this, we’d drape sidewalks in police tape.  Because of the garter snake outlined in pink chalk.  Because a lawnmower blade can fork the most serpentine body.  Because it can bifurcate a wilder tongue.  Because we uncoiled green garden hoses to reclaim eden from our lawns.  Because, instead, we made them mud.  Because we are of mud.  Because, as boys, we cooled our bodies in mud.  Because we wear what we come from.


Chain the color of dusk’s cloud cover.  Braided steel.  As many inches long as years the god we stopped praying to wore flesh.  But the flesh talks back to us.  We train for a heaven can break into.  We whip couch cushions and our backs, dig out stacks of plates our parents would never unbox and return them shattered to storage bins. And the flesh talks back to us.  We practice how we’d thrash apologies out of darkness if it confronted us.  The flesh talks back, and we numb its tongue with crushed ice we shove into ziplock bags.


In grade school, Dog-Head scours the playground for loose change.  Just watch him.  To find a lost coin, know how loss happens.  Watch.  It’s in the pockets.  During a pick-up game.  Wait for them to drop light onto the pavement.  Dog-Head knows where everything falls.  He paws the wood chips under swing sets, monkey bars, and the platforms of jungle gyms.  To find what’s lost, become it.  See where light falls, and onto it, fall like it.


Polaroids: a boiler room.  The red yawn of furnaces.  Heat’s machinery hell’s and full of coughs.  The instruments of deification stashed under a panel of pressure gauges.  A shoebox full of nails.  Hammer.  Ropes.  A table displaying an alchemy of knots.  The small murders living under a storm grate.  The black we wore to blend in with the backs of our eyelids.


Basketball.  Jump-rope.  Tag.  Four-square.  In childhood’s mansion, there are many windows to break.  Fall through.  We kick soccer balls against the wall-length pane of the cafeteria window.  Their ricochets miss Dog-Head, mostly.  Mostly on purpose.  Girls, when they swing, wince whenever he roots around the poles of the swing-set.  They enter the air mid-arc to get away from him.  I was supposed to invite Dog-Head to something once.


Below the wreckage of wellness: three square miles of concrete corridors.  Spray-painted smiley faces mark each quarter mile of the path.  Adolescence is a bottle-rocket assembled in an unlit tunnel.  There are no grates to launch through.  We launch into the wires snaking the length of the ceiling.  Delinquency is a gospel told in black-light, in glyphs.  A map of neon tongues tagged on cinderblock.  Never be teenaged underground.  


I once find Dog-Head where the field slopes to a basin in which storms pool.  Rather, I find him becoming a storm.  I reach to wipe the snot from his nose.  He slaps my hand.  I punch his stomach.  He spits coins into the grass.  He wears black sweatpants.  No pockets.  So he makes the space under his tongue his bank.  I could tell.  I never tell.  How he holds our coins in his mouth for hours without swallowing them.


More polaroids: Grace.  Her breasts.  Her braces.  The soft abrasions her cherry lipgloss covers as her lips emboss my face.  Her face.  Hers against mine.  Her church.  Dog-Head placing a penny in the collection plate. Grape juice and the aftertaste of Christliness.  The sweetness of consensual cannibalism.  The blood’s tang of sharp iron and failed helixes.  A flake of body on each tongue.  The collective crunch of a congregation biting.


Not because making something god can be as easy as seeing a nail put through it.  Not because there is a kid who renounced his treehouse to take up carpentry.  Not because of what became of the planks.  Not because he was left to sit in the bramble thicket of his childhood playing house with his psychopathy.  Not because of the piles of crab apples and maple leaves.  Not because of the nails we found there.  Not because the hammer is unseen.


Eze, France

Stone store-fronts, awnings,
            dappling of red moss.  Vine

as grout for fissure.  Hole
            as mortar for wholeness. 

You come to a knowledge-
            less-ness that comes to you

as breath, then to cobblestones
            that haggle with your lungs. 

And now this fog, this way
            alleys break into slants

of valley, the bird’s-nest view
            of viaducts and terra-cotta

shingles sloping to the sea.
            You resist any thought

you share an architecture
            with clouds.  Beyond

stone benches, rooftops grow
            into deserts.  You prick a finger

on anything to leave a drop
            of you on its bloom.  In a sky

of agave terraces, you begin
            by thanking the ground.  


Benjamin Goldberg’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Best New Poets 2014, TriQuarterlyWest Branch, Ninth Letter, Salt HillBlackbird, and elsewhere.  He is the recipient of an award from The Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and was a finalist for the 2014 Vinyl 45 Chapbook Contest, the 2013 Third Coast Poetry Prize, and the 2012 Gearhart Poetry Prize.  He lives with his wife outside Washington, D.C., and currently attends the MFA program at Johns Hopkins University.  Find him online at www.benrgold.com.