Oh those bodies on the museum walls Tennessee Valley bodies and Los Alamos bodies shining blackly like the stripe of a credit card.
The price of bread fixed at five cents and we all eat it in slices. Your name is your labour and your labour your name.
I have disappeared into a country that doesn’t know me and I am tearing it up with my teeth.
Oh those bodies that were once slaves. Were they pictured any other way but in idyll or whipped dry? The dusty Union regiments at Baton Rouge have made a postcard of one scourged back; they share it around and die for it.
I have a few postcards, too. It is strange to see any man kneeling.
Oh those bodies Cornbread bodies and bodies like a corn snake crushed among the broad leaves of tobacco; The ones in bone corsets and the ones in reed baskets, floating downstream. The ones in rosy marble and wrought bronze the ones whose striped backs are coming out in wings feathers pink and wet like a new-hatched chick or a stillbirth.
Your body is a tight machine of grief packed into homespun like a fist and relaxes in sepia as it never did in life, a babe slung underarm and the food only from cans; they keep the dust out. Oh those bodies that tend the home, larder and ledger, and reach for the high cabinets and keep reaching.
The old voices are back at work. I am not the one they are speaking to but I hear them all the same. They spread out a catalogue of wares on a sisal blanket in the dark and every price sounds fair, every garment lovely unless you made it.
The country workman in bronze now and forever with his rolled shirtsleeves; his body raises a hammer and his bicep, mid-shiver is always striking something, always building Heaven, and Manhattan, from the foundations. Stained glass his union flag and Union Army blood he forgot or never knew. The thin white arms of Andersonville, meeting two generations hence, in his arms, the dark scarred shoulders of the South.
Who brought forth upon the continent this new nation, and who brought forth the ironclad Monitor and who put into song the Maple Leaf Rag or Swanee River and who put that soil there from which the cotton still grows and who made your dress? Who owes the debt and who records it?
You and I.
Oh those bodies swathed in light. Oh those bodies becoming angels. Bodies bound blackly and bodies forgetting which is what bodies do with injury: they absorb, and they forget.