Blood Honey

Apprehended and held without trial,
our friend was sentenced:
brain tumor, malignant.
Condemned each day to wake
and remember.

Overnight, a wall sprang up around him,
leaving the rest of us
outside.

Death passed over us this time.
We’re still at large. We’re free
to get out of bed, start the coffee,
open the blinds.
The first of the human freedoms.

If he’s guilty
we must be guilty; we’re all made of
the same cup of dust—

It’s a blessing, isn’t it? To be able,
days at a time,
to forget what we are.


             *

These numbered days
have a concentrated sweetness
that’s pressed from us,
the dying man most of all.

Today we eat brunch at Chester’s,
poached egg on toast,
orange juice foaming in frosted glasses.

He remembers the summer he packed blood oranges,
stripped to the waist,
drinking the fresh-squeezed juice in the factory
straight from the tap.
He cups his left hand under his chin
as if to a faucet, laughing.

He is scooping sweetness from the belly of death
—honey from the lion’s carcass.

We sit with our friend
and brood on the riddle he sets before us:
What is it, this blood honey?

          *


A shadow is eating the sun.
It can blind you
but he’s looking right at it,
he won't turn away.

Already his gaze is marked
by such hard looking,
though just now he asked,
plaintive as a child,
Why won’t it go away?

Day after day breaks
and gives him
back to us
broken.

Soon the husk of his knowing
won’t know even that.

          *

A man lies alone in his body in a world
he can still desire.
Another slice of pie? he asks.

As long as he’s hungry
he’s still one of us.
Oh Lord, not yet.

He drums out a jazz beat on the bedrail
with his one good hand
when the words stumble.
See? he says. I can trick the tumor.

He can still taste and see.
The world is good.

He hauls himself up in bed,
squinting his one good eye at the kingdom
through a keyhole
that keeps getting smaller
and smaller.
It is good. It is very good.

Chana Bloch, "Blood Honey" 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)
More Poems by Chana Bloch