The Color Green

Two floors up, at the corner of Hearst and Shattuck,
he’s clamped for good                                    
in an iron lung. When it’s time to eat
he nudges his head a sweaty mile
to the edge of the pillow. It takes a while.
 
His brilliant bloodshot light-blue eyes
steer me from cupboard to fridge:                     
he would like his chicken burrito
cut into bite-size pieces,                                            
a bent straw for his glass of water, please.                
 
How does the body live its only life
in a cage? I watch him compute the distance
from bar to bar, and squeeze
between them
with a violent compression, a fury of bursting free
that doesn’t last.                    
 
His will is a crowbar, angled to pry up                                             
the rooted intractable weight
of matter. I watch him slyly, I check out
the way he does it. He
does it. But pain in its absolute privacy                                  
weighs what it weighs.
 
I come here to study the soul, posing one question               
a dozen ways, most of them silent. 
“If I’m only a body,” he laughs,                       
“I’m up shit creek.” His laugh                         
a gritty eruption of rock, salt and breath.
 
Like me he writes poems                                             
but he does it letter by letter  
on a propped keyboard, the mouth-stick
wobbling between his teeth.
That kind of speed keeps a poet accountable.                         
He won’t ever say, “The grass is very green”
when it’s only green. 

Chana Bloch, "The Color Green" from Blood Honey. Copyright © 2009 by Chana Bloch.  Reprinted by permission of Autumn House Press. www.autumnhouse.org
Source: Blood Honey (Autumn House Press, 2009)
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