Pietro Federico: Kentucky

–Ain’t no grave can hold my body down. Sung by Johnny Cash at the Church of the Sacred Heart

Sing black pastor, and dance in this church
of white wooden boards stuck together
by the sweat and blood of your parishioners.
Because I have forgotten how heavy it is,
my fault—how clear my memory
should be of my own Gethsemane,
and how much dancing it takes to free
the body from its demons,
I lean my back against the wall
of this shack below the bell tower
while I watch you dance with the congregation.
The wood is so thin I feel the sun
move down my spine.
If it is not about this dance, then out in the fields
if wheat you reap doesn’t come to bread,
and bread does not turn into immortal flesh,
then what does it matter if I open my hand to sow,
and what do I care if in the wind there is wheat
or my heart burns to ash?


Gradual, casual,
of a little less temperature,
not far from any sunlit travel,
you crab grayest over gravel,
stretching slow as cancer, slur
and crawl always catching up
like smoke to a fire. If I stop
from walking to look down
neither smile nor frown
shows in your blurry mirror.
Faithful, near.
You pretend that noon
doesn’t exist. Loyal
as a tea stain, you
adore the full moon
or a parking lot lamp. Oil
from the olive spilled
or wall fallen, who
or how do you unbuild?
Even my hand on this page
under light, there is an edge
you have on thought, queerer
the way you hedge
your bets ahead of
my smartest notion.
You like. Perhaps you love,
but you are less than ink.
In the darkest night, you think
(you dream) you are an ocean.