Sunday Jun 23

McDowellGary Gary L. McDowell is the author of Weeping at a Stranger's Funeral (Dream Horse Press, 2013) and American Amen (Dream Horse Press, 2010), and he's the co-editor, with F. Daniel Rzicznek, of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry (Rose Metal Press, 2010).  His poems and lyric essays are forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Bluestem, Superstition Review, Front Porch, and Barn Owl Review, among others.  He lives in Nashville, TN with his family where he's an assistant professor of English at Belmont University.


At twenty, those nights when for hours at a time I would stand, forehead pressed against the pane, staring into the dark.... E.M. Cioran

You went to a costume party.
You loved at a distance.
The lack of bite marks
on your forearms and ankles.
You repeat: And with you.
A film about wild animals.
The art of the fugue: you spent
a little over an hour together.
And with you. You’ve taken
the wrong idiom, not as death
but as friend, you’ve failed
to include yourself. You walk
in circles—and with you
until the shipwreck protects
your turpitude. To risk bad
humor—remorse. And with you.
Not the fear of effort, of singing
louder than your pew-mate.
Every thought a thwarted
sensation, a high note missed
low. Night means sleepless
night, when you dream the mask
you wore as the thundering
prophet. People guessed
the guy from that show or
Zorro, kind of. Instead, history
or its makings, some film
of small arrests. And with you.
The nearby of you weren’t looking,
nothing more can be done.
The more you live, the subtle
wounds that lift you, holy,
to the blessed. The secret
to monsters is that they attract
us: intimacy—you draw the curtains—
all the parts of the body, and always
with you. To fail at crying is not
the same as missing the train
or pretending that the monk’s
lamentations are any less sad
than the man’s who sleeps
outside the library, his kingdom
the mineral kingdom and all men
have always lived with the vision
of argument, of idiots and their
misfortunes told. Obviously
a solution to nightmares,
the anxieties of martyrdom
exhaust even the most exigent
sentiment, and we keep singing:
Holy, holy, holy. And with you.

Holy from To Cut

Thinking too hard there’s nowhere to hide.
An entourage of chariots riverside.
Go, wash yourself seven times in the River Jordan.
Eyes closed but dilated but humming—
we’ve surrendered like a question.
The water bubbles from the ground
in the North, says the preacher, is never
deeper than a sapling is tall.
It’s not that the dictionary works
but that the Bible helps you understand
what drowning feels like. Aram paved
the River bottom with shekels of gold:
This is My Body, just as He Said.
Every river is deep enough to wade
at dusk—every river is deep. At dusk
a grass spider weaves from the patio
table to the grill and I listen
for the rain that’ll knock him groundward.
Before I sleep, I cup cold water to my face
and think how please stand as you are able
sounds a lot like I prefer it this way.
And after baptism, I still think that to drift
downriver would mean there’s one less place to go.