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Instructions to an Artisan

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Into the rood wood, where the grain's current splits   
around the stones of its knots, carve eyelashes and eyelids.   
Dye the knots, too—indigo, ink-black, vermillion   
irises. These will be his eyes, always open, willing   
themselves not to close when dust rises or sweat falls,   
eyes witnessing, dimly, the eclipse that shawls   
the shuddering hill, Jerusalem's naked shoulder.   
The body itself? From a wick that still whiffs of smolder,   
wax, because wax sloughs a smooth skein on the fingers just   
below sensation's threshold. Prop the cross   
upright and let the tear-hot wax trickle, slow, clot, taper   
into a torso, thighs, calves, feet. Of Gideon Bible paper,   
thinner than skin, cut him his scrap of cloth; embed   
iron shavings in his forehead,   
and, as the wax cools, scrape the rust off an old fuel can   
to salt the whole wound that is the man.   
Cry, if you feel like crying, and if no one else is there.   
Then set it on the counter with your other wares.

Source: Poetry (June 2008)

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This poem originally appeared in the June 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

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Instructions to an Artisan

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