Alice O. Howell   




I think I already died in Bruges 

my mouth slackening

     drowned by prayers 

        green river opaquely murmuring

         passing the bed become my bier

             carried off the contents

             of the pisspot


no, this is not meant bitterly!

     the laced crystals

     of my life, the eased intent

     disease and faltering 

        the metals of my mettle 

        and all the pus of discontent

 must have flowed out of me

     was I a nun?

     had I a dreadful sore

     between my legs?

     was I obedient and brave

     calm and composed

         implacably Christed

         in starched beliefs?


    did I weep only white tears

     and pray numbed by faith

     over my clean freckled hands

         with china-blue veins?

 O death, I remember you in Bruges!

 my constricted structures

     bridged the truth

         missed it entirely

 there was a dandelion clinging

 by a brick near the glooming river's edge

     I watched the school children pass it

             for days

         sclappering over the cobbles

         laughing under the bells

         in the fresh light of morning

 the day I died

 it diademed

     its froth of wisdom

         flew off with my soul


my Lord, my Lord, I gave you nothing

         waiting for your All!