HIGH SUMMER

leaves droop from trees 
the sky droops from branches 
like a white sheet 
to hold the locusts in 
their buzzsaw whine 
a blaze of sound 

july is god's forge, god's 
hammer coming down 
again and again, stupefyingly 
hot at seven o'clock 
the heat its own kind of sound 
a swarm upon my skin 
july is sumo wrestling with the sun 
belly to belly we stomp 
and sweat and shout 
the sun always wins 

the birds slump and pant 
too hot to chase the 
screaming insects 
even the wind 
dries out, curls up panting 
in the woodpile 
with the snakes. 


EASY RIDERS

come for supper my dad says, he's grilling 
I say we're supposed to stay inside 

you're not sick he tells me 
and neither am I, come have a burger 

some fries, some laughs, let's roll 
our eyes -- and maybe he's right 

there's nothing to fear, his generation 
invented rebellion, invented barefoot 

invented protest signs gave their middle 
fingers to the old man in the white house 

and the sky -- where is your spirit he asks 
without asking I feel the disappointment 

like feathers in my lungs, the itch 
before a coughing spell -- how can it be 

he raised me to obey some faceless They 
there were no bathrooms at Woodstock and 

everyone was high they lived into a legend 
braided hope and daisies in their hair and 

how I wish the world they made was made to last 
and only doctors wore the masks

E. D. Watson

IN PRAISE OF HIDEOUSNESS

All praise the lepers,
praise the boars
praise mud and dust and filth,
the flies, metal buildings
with metal doors.

Praise the needle in your arm
the scars, your body broken, maimed.
God bless you in your hospital bed
purple yellow pale, drooling
crying out, wounds weeping
pinkish stuff, God bless
your bad breath, for you are breathing

and God is here, God is not
all rainbow ponies and kitten fluff,
God is the dark blood in your veins
that flows and flows and never
sees the light of day
until it does. Hallelujah,

praise Them, god of darkness
god of light, locked in an embrace
that looks like mortal combat
but is in fact every kind of love.

 

 

DIA DE MUERTOS

The Dead now make their pilgrimage 
Back to their homes, back to our side.
I hear their laughter on the wind
For they return as butterflies.

Come, come! Beloved ones, come back!
Come spend a night beneath our roof,
Come eat our bread and drink our wine,
Come make the candles dance as proof

That you have not forgotten us,
You still remember how to dance
Though you no longer have your feet.
Come buss our cheeks and clasp our hands

For we have not forgotten you.
Come tell us of the place you've been,
What you eat and drink and do there
And what it's like to shed your skin.

And for those lost and hungry souls
I place some bread outside my door.
Godspeed, you pilgrims, hurry on
To homes that are your homes no more.


E. D. Watson

PRAYER AGAINST TWO DIMENSIONS

I don't want to be one of those people 
folded over a cell phone screen
like a larva, sucking from the memes
and colored pictures as from tree roots:
in darkness. What can a larva suppose
of the tree that looms above it
in light for which it hasn't eyes?
Lord, I don't want to miss a thing.
I want to taste my tea. I want to let
the world pass through me slowly,
I want to see the faces
no one ever posts online:
pitted with acne, spotted with age
ragged with loneliness, furrowed
by rage and secrets. I don't want
to be blind. The world is more
than pretty, more than funny
or outrageous. There is no hashtag
for the snail among the soft wet leaves,
for the millipede who glides
across the sidewalk, on silent
undulating feet. Straighten me, expand me Lord
that I may hear the hawk's high keening
as it circles overhead, cutting discs of sky
and singing.

E. D. Watson

INVOCATION OF GOD AS WOMAN

God I cannot picture you with breasts 
and the dark triangular bush
from which I emerged, along with all.
I cannot picture you down on your knees
scrubbing tiles with a brush
scrubbing baseboards, scrubbing walls
hair come loose from the old bandana
tied round your head. And I cannot see you
crying into your coffee, having one of those mornings,
telling yourself to pull yourself together girl,
a whole nother day of trying laid out before you.
I cannot picture you pursing your lips,
biting your tongue, choosing to say nothing
when nothing can be done,
and God I cannot picture you
looking over your shoulder at your big backside
in the mirror, squeezing your thighs
when your period comes -- but why?
And how else can I call you friend
unless you drop your sword
and peel off that plastic stick-on beard
and laugh with me like women laugh
about this mess we're in?

E. D. Watson

CARNIVORE’S PRAYER

Heaven knows I'm not proud 
of being a meat-eater, but something
in me growls and snorts and licks
its jowls when I take apart a chicken
separating joint from joint, flesh
from bone. It's something my hands
know how to do, the part of me
that is my ancestors, and doesn't evolve
but only changes form. Before words
was hunger, driving us to run and thrust
spears, to taste the flesh of other bodies.
The wild, unspellable pounding
of our hearts, the intoxicating taste
of blood--we're no different from the bears
and killer whales and cats. And who is to say
they are not like me, grieving their prey
as it rolls through their guts. Lord,
if this makes me less, forgive me
for being a tiger instead of a lamb
and not rebuilding Eden, nor seeing
in the iridescent green shoots everything
I'll ever need, forsaking all I might be
for what I merely am.


E. D. Watson

PRAYER AGAINST BEING AN ASSHOLE

O father help me not to stare, 
wide-eyed, when my brother falls.
Help me not to sniff his breath
for alcohol and cigarettes
or blasphemy, or Diet Coke.
To take his slurring words as jokes,
not call him drunkard, but von vivant.
Not call him other, but myself.

Help me not to wrinkle my nose
when the homeless guy comes in,
the one that stinks of piss and sweat
and slumps in the library chair
snoring loudly, his wind-chapped face
tucked into his Nylon coat sleeve--
as surely Jesus must have slept
while He roamed homeless through this world.

Prayer Against Materialism

What is a psalm a poem a prayer
if not a Wall Street ticker tape
our fear spelled out in numbers,
compulsion to accumulate.

What have we to say to God but wait,
before I die restore me to wonder
allow me to fill in some blanks.
For behold, my storehouse is full

and if I die now I'm a fool
who worked all my life like a slave,
unpaid for my own efforts, ruled
by a loaf of bread, a golden bull,

and the face in my LinkedIn profile.
A self brought to perfection, yet unrealized.
Still rich where I should be poor,
dull where I should be wise.

E. D. Watson





NOTRE DAME

I.
We had only one day in Paris,
pilgrim-starved and threadbare, broke
we’d walked to the tomb of a saint,
from the mountains to the coast
 
and this was our reward: crêpes
at midnight, eaten on the street, not time
to see it all, though we tried, and one
of the ways was this: to skip the line
 
at the cathedral and instead feed the pigeons outside.
A man in sunglasses showed us how
to hold a pinch of bread just so
they’d alight on our shoulders and hands.
 
Fat, friendly birds who cooed,
whose wingtips brushed my chin—
not once have I regretted it. Now
the church has burned and fallen in.
 
We seldom know when we lose
nor how much; my chance is gone. Now
I’ll always wonder if there were angels in the rafters
and if those angels burned.

II.
 
Why are they singing,
asks my neighbor’s little boy.
For children, songs are born of joy—
how then to explain Parisians
 
on the banks of the Seine, joined
in hymn as their steeple burned?
Too young, he hasn’t felt the urge
to let loose a scream or moan
 
transformed as song, to light incense
in his throat. I think of slaves
singing in the fields, slinging scythes
dragging bags of cotton beneath the eye
 
of God. I think of chain-gangs
breaking stone. I think of myself
at twenty, far from home and living
in a cramped apartment with a man
 
who sometimes choked me
and spat on me for fun. I sang love songs
in the shower then, and slid the window
wide, to let them out into the alley
 
where someone passing by might hear
and save me. Sometimes, I tell
my neighbor’s son, all you can do
is sing, or ring a bell;
 
the music is a counter-spell.