First there was a lack of salt.
River fish swimming in a plate
of scales      lemon      dust of the tamarind:
I didn’t doubt the meal’s complexity
but the pure flavors were mute
as if their tongues had been cut out
by the Gutian tribes      how their bone knives
glistened when scraped with sandstone:
that’s what we wanted anyway      a sharpening…

Rains came next: water
as if our thirst would ruin our souls
as if our mouths were filled with salt
and they were filled with water until cypress
rose from the water like a grave relinquishing the body
from its covenant      until wisteria latched
onto our tenements      penetrating
the flesh of our house      bleeding those terrible dusk flowers…

When the wisteria was over our heads
you came to my room and our mouths
pressed out into the sheets—they were cauls
we were portenders      bones cast into the wet earth
streaks of mud on our femurs      a humerus
a lamentation reed      its purchase marked by clay.
You drank sepia ink to stave away death
and left fingerprints and lipprints on my slip and the ink pooled

in my navel—you have to realize
it was then that marked the change
from voice to liquid, from temple to liquid:
we would swim to each other from now on…

and then the waters receded taking with them
                     our sheets drying in the bars of our windows
                     amulets we made from coral and seaweed
                     our memories of how to swim kiss kill…

The salt came back this time in the drinking water
straight from the tap: we were parched.
Animals left our city without regret. The wisteria
was desiccated. My desertification journal a Friday
my sweet date      you no longer met me
                    at the temple where we used to sublimate into one another
                    or at the clearing in the cypress beyond the city gates where we
                         tied our bodies to tree trunks to keep from floating away
                    or at the dusty ziggurat peddling spices from burlap sacks

                    or in my chamber where you played mendicant and I played
                         Samaritan or I played
city and you played marauder.
I weighed piled gathered my spices at the market
stall empty you were away. The crowd
was as loud as a steam engine but you
were always      sparks against steel.
Is this a way of reclaiming ash mixed with spit
the pleasure of salty flesh in the mouth?
You were my hipsong then but now

with your lacuna grin in the corner of every eye
I pour salt on the wound of my tongue
fill my ears with sand      and with the cinderblocks
against my walls      I sharpen all the parts you’ve kissed.

Originally from the bayou community of Chauvin, Louisiana, Christopher Lirette makes his home in Ithaca, NY with his wife, Linda. In addition to writing, he has taught archery in California, bartended in Louisiana, chipped rust of offshore oil platforms, cooked in Chicago homes in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, studied in Paris, and retraced an ancestral exile in Acadie. His poems are forthcoming in The Colorado Review and appeared recently in Prick of the Spindle, The Louisiana Review, and The Louisville Review, in which he also has an essay about professional wrestling.


Home      Register     About Us/Staff     Submit     Links     Contributors     Advertising     Archives     Blog     Donation     Contact Us