More Like the Stars

I don't want to be alive anymore.
I don't want to be alive enough to want that.

One is not meant to turn on one's creator
with ferocity expendable in only one way.

Or is that exactly how one is meant to turn
to burn
beyond the love that from beyond being
has come to us:

Christ's ever unhearable
and thus always too bearable

In love and dread we learn to listen
for beloved dread

coming upon us like a whiplash rain
we watch through a window.

In pain we learn pain.

Sometimes amid the rancid moonlight and mindlice of my insomnia
there gleams a scalpel blade

so clean with meaning
so shaped and sharpened to interstellar blue

that drawing it —in season due —
across my own throat

there comes not blood but an ancient answering

Once upon a time in a pleasingly modern slaughterhospice
with a view of sky-contempted skyscrapers

and Lake Michigan's immaculate sewage
my inner skin was skinned mouth to bowels,

my soul —deadword, die to find it.

For self-pity there must remain a self.
Ah, but even shitting one's self

one still finds one's self hastening to hide it all
from the kind Ukranian nearly bearded night nurse.

Fentanyl patches patching my stalactite thighs
my diaphanous shoulders

the very air eating me
like a late leaf

that once I would have flourished
for a perishable lover

or lonelied like some catpiss poignancy
into a poem.

Dead brain, living will, little pills
entangling pain with adoration of it,

morphine machine whose little beep
(heavenly bell)

conjures me to the suddenly more tolerable hallways
of hell . . .
                         Lovely Leila,

so unsurgically curved,
disclosing as she leans to clean my lines

a bit of icelace undergarment like the very last trace
of a glacier.

The brain the brain the brain flickering electrically
in and out,


not the mind in which I love
my wife

whose tightwound nightmind conjures Christ in diapers,
for instance, filthy infant, or later,

in a mist of adolescent bad weather,
bored of wood, dogdead Judea, squawk-box God,

some restless absurdity of earth, she says,
through which the rest of heaven can come.

Once upon a time I walked through the chemical glamour
of a night refinery

sparking dangerously without and within
for beside me under her underclothes

undulated an incarnation
of creation's finest failure:

moonskin to make a young man wince
coupled with stifling innocence.

Still, we managed.

And over the wrought-iron railing of the country club
to which neither of us could possibly belong,

in the moonskinned pool that seemed both to embody and imbibe
her, we improved.

And later, out on a green (to be sixteen!)
when the starshower I thought was mine

was mining me for sweat, muscle, memory
to make its own death

shine unceasingly inside of me,
even unto hell,
                               we excelled.

Can it be that her last name was really Key?

So much life in this poem
so much salvageable and saving love

but it is I fear I swear I tear open
what heart I have left

to keep it from being
and beating and bearing down upon me

What rest in faith
               from grief

What truce
             with truth
in bowing

not to the ground
of being
               but simply
to the ground

Affliction flickers
like a structure
on fire
moves through me

like a breeze

But antlike
crawls all over me Lord
and I cry out
if you call
             this vise
              a cry
this riot
of needs and genes
an I

             among the
              and nerves
of sounds
I make my scathing
in church
or in the parked
             before work
I try
              to pray

What might it mean
to surrender
              to the wonder
Not to end
              with a little flourish
                            of earth

Not to end

                                                                                                   Love is the living heart of dread
                                                                             Love I love you unto the very edge of being

Something in us suffering touches,
teaches first to find

little coves in our loves: blank nothings
wherein we are what we always were

              — blank nothings —

but changed or rearranged
as atoms
               in the random
                                           of things:

hand, we say, or eye, or hair,
as if to make ourselves — to stake ourselves — truly

Knowing now not to move in time
we are moved
                        by tiger-striped tails
bloodfine fins

some natureless cerulean
one would say

thinking oneself
out of nature

Something in us, suffering, touches,
               so we may saunter
through an altogether other

as once in the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago

                I floated    a moment

with my love and the two new lives
borne from us
                           who loved best
the eensy

more like the stars

when you close your eyes and whirl
open to the whirling

so freed from things
                                        you fall
at the havoc

For me for a long time
not the minnows mattered

but the pattern after: miraculous
I didn't think

to think:
all those mite-eyes and animate instants

answering at once to my need
and to nothing

as if my very nerves worked
in finally a saving sense

Something in us touches

like the constellations
of kinetic quiet

that bound us beyond us
as right to the wall the girls pressed

their still-forming faces
through which the wild new schools flew
                                           too green
                             too blue
               to stand

And I held your hand.


Christian Wiman, "More Like the Stars" from Once in the West. Copyright © 2014 by Christian Wiman.  Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Source: Once in the West (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2014)
More Poems by Christian Wiman