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Tuesday, June 07, 2016


by David Allen Sullivan

“Searchlight” (2008) by Dorothy Cross at the Kerlin Gallery.

Drugstore neon LIQUORS the men’s reflected faces
as the coat unsheathes the knife.
The argument has come to this. No going back.
Fingers grapple wrists, teeth become weapons,
and soft points of entry: groin, eyes, jugular, wrist-pulse,
are surveyed by the breathless
geographers of flight and fight.

Every day we are here.
We put on each other’s clothes,
teeth the air before our faces,
taste the bitter spirits—stand ins for death—
burning down our throats.

Who would retract their steps
from this point of violence?
Resheath the blade? What we’re given to experience
we do not return. Each of us holds the weapon,
each of us pulls back the safety,
de-pins the grenade,
hefts the scimitar,
douses ourselves with gasoline…
Each of us feels the blade and bullet, burn and blister
tender our skin.

What aggression sears back my lips?
What maniacal laugh takes over my body?
What demon wears my skin as a cloak?
I am not this person I am,
the doppelganger in the upper flat
whose footsteps plague my brain.
What will come between us?

We have been chosen.
With Isaac we lay ourselves athwart the stony altar.
With Abraham we wetstone the blade.
Each risky thing awakens the dead
already inside us, breathing with our breath.
We step into the spotlight
and the LA helicopter’s searchlight
pins us to the squad car roof
while the cop rifles through our pockets.
We are nothing but our choices
and we have no choice.

We slip our feet into their shoes
laid by our beds.
We walk into the other room to do whatever is required.
The other has made off with our life
our lover
our clothes
our future.

We walk into the other room
and we never come back.

David Allen Sullivan’s books include: Strong-Armed AngelsEvery Seed of the Pomegranatea book of translation from the Arabic of Iraqi Adnan Al-Sayegh, Bombs Have Not Breakfasted Yet; and Black Ice. Most recently, he won the Mary Ballard Chapbook poetry prize for Take Wing. He teaches at Cabrillo College, where he edits the Porter Gulch Review with his students, and lives in Santa Cruz with his family.