David Swartz "RELIGION WITH AN EDGE"
biblicalfictions.com
Poetry for the Curious across the Religious Spectrum
Brother Sequence

 [SEQUENCE FOR AN ONLY BROTHER]

 

 

     {from Gnosis}

 

                                                  Gere curam mei finis.

 

                      

                                                                                      Swartz

i

 

 

Elvin, I watch your death.

Somehow I taste it on my fingers.

I eat your death

With some deliberation.

 

Fragile is your beauty, black hands

Over the coverlet,

The sheen of your pajamas,

A frightened, mutable

 

Steinway I am teasing with my voice.

You are my dark

Doomed brother.

You are my penis.

 

The fugue that is my life

Emerges in your smile,

Your fearful

Contractions.

 

They will cover those beautiful solemn eyes

With earth,

You jet Iago, livid

Ebony tongue.

 

 

ii

 

 

Elvin Jack, you are eating

My wisdom.

There is a conspiracy with your illness,

A viral assault

 

On my manhood.

You are less gay

Than I.

I have come out of the closet to watch you.

 

We are coupled

With your lovers.

The Greek

Prowls the corridor.

 

He knows, they all know.

This cosmos is alive

With accusation.

Every porter carries our secretions.

 

On the other hand, I cannot bring myself

To ask

The rhetorical question—

Is it AIDS?  AIDS?

 

No trace of you provides me with an answer.

We whisper

Contradictions,

Hoping to ensnare it with a lie.

 

 

iii

 

 

You are that dark dark angel

That devours me.

I am helpless against the virus of your heart.

I eat

 

And yet am eaten.

There is no small petty

Christ

In store for you.

 

I register each wrinkle

As stigmata.

Your Calvary reeks like yesterday’s mop

In a plastic bag.

 

The soldiers impale you

With gloved hands.

No virgin burns beneath that haughty cross

Or aches

 

To have your tears.

You and I,

Elvin, we know their fears—a rash, a cold,

A whiff of something

 

Milder than the snow,

Just the softest touch

Of heartache

In the glands.

 

 

iv

 

 

Elvin, you are my bathhouse

Sister.

We have grappled under bright lights.

I bring you a cup of mouthwash.

 

I have felt your body strain

In some inexplicable embrace

Known only

To the queer elect.

 

Listen closely, you are a black Jewish fag

With a stutter,

And I am your tall blond

Heterosexual mother.

 

 

v

 

 

There was a glitter

When you entered this brave world.

You sneak out now like an uninvited

Guest.

 

Calculation occurs

In your movements.

You fend off death with peculiar charm.

You beg me for forgiveness.

 

The grace is clinical, refined,

A gown and gloves,

Discharge in a bag,

The IV trailing from your wrist.

 

 

vi

 

 

Elvin, you macho fairy,

They found you out.

All your lovers

Tremble in their sleep.

 

You are stepping on their graves.

A grisly leak

Stains the bridal veil.

There is a cellular assault

 

On your daughter’s hymen.

Progeny shudder

At a vacancy in your glance.

The image is within,

 

A dark hole

That pulls at your father’s teeth.

No sin is sufficient.

We conspire to bury you

 

In the dead of night.

A solitary candle

Burns between your thighs.  We eye.

We eye your eyes.

 

 

vii

 

 

Get well cards litter the window ledge.

There are only five

Of them.

A queer artist visits,

 

Brings you a hero sandwich.

You marshal yourself

To eat it with those long black fingers,

Teasing its contents

 

Into your vulnerable mouth.

An immigrant electrician

Comes on Sundays.

They

 

Whisper he too is gay.

Many wish you well

From a distance.

I am the closest, breathing on your stains.

 

You were always afraid of dying.

There is a scent

Of mortality

No amount of after-shave can mask.

 

Today you would be in DC

With the big stud,

The West Point Ranger.

You shrivel like genitals in cold water.

 

 

viii

 

 

Elvin, I am sucking off your fear.

Today you clip

Your fingernails,

Careful

 

Of the last detail.

You dropped Sunshine 35 occasions,

A tab

For every year of your life.

 

Greg Allman entered your head.

You were secure,

A black hippie with octagonal pink lenses.

Even the wife

 

Was upper crust,

A lean elegance, degreed from Yale.

She found you fooling

With her brother.

 

You were last seen at CBS,

An Exeter

Drop-out,

Heading into the superfluous Eighties

 

With lapsed sincerity,

Multiple assignations,

A coiffed blonde in clogs and white jumpsuit,

Broad

 

Strangers with major inches.

We are so inward

I could scream.

Cradle.  Cradle my head in your lap.

 

 

ix

 

 

Elvin, they are bagging

Your bodily fluids.

You have requested another therapist.

The dinners

 

Are watched suspiciously

As you eat next

To nothing.

They would have you properly nourished.

 

Five doors down, Robert is in the final stages.

Rumor says

He was your lover

For a week

 

Last spring.

They allege his occupation to be a plumber’s.

We are waiting to see

Him bring

 

You a great red American Beauty rose.

It’s all a sneak attack,

My pretty one,

Elvin Jack.

 

                                              1987

 

 

                            

                                                                             Swartz