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The Listener

ISSUE:  Summer 1999

I begin each day blank as an uncut key,
but in the shower I start hearing.
Neighbors twelve blocks over
washing the body of their mother.
It comes through the pipes, comes tight
as the lasso of a stutter, dragging
its word from the tongue’s falling house.
I hear the advice of psychics
when I pick up my telephone, of eight thousand
voices all asking in different ways
whether they must eat alone at the table
of their hearts forever. The mannequins
ashamed of their severed wrists.
The shot star gone unseen, calling out
to the dust of old planets that it is coming.
Trees unbinding storms from their branches.

Hardest are the seeds of the bloodfruit.
Their words are so red they enter only
once and desperately at knifepoint.
They believe they are alone in their cardinal
tongue, sanguine and thickening.
It would take fire or breaking glass to tell them
the poppy, the apple, and the vein.


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