My desensitized was desensitized,
and I had a nightmare of monstrous proportions.
You were hanging upside down on a cactus bush,
crucified, your skin sticky red,
your head cradled by thorns.
Your fingers had been brutalized,
ground like beef.
There was a plantation house nearby, and I went for help. (Though, surely, you were already dead.) I walked
in easily. I took the stairs, because I knew you were on the top floor.
On the third landing, a child was sent
to tell me to clean my feet.
I told him I had
or that they’d never been dirty.
(I can’t remember which.)
My feet had been in your prickly garden beneath your bleeding, had stepped in the berries that fell from the
cactus bush, that stuck themselves there to the arch of my foot. Before the child came, I ate the berries,
hungry, and licked clean my steps.
Your death made me selfish.
But as the child led me up the stairs,
I found myself back out
where you were hanging like that—
naked, embarrassing me and yourself.
It was not long before shame gave way,
my immortality threatened by your body’s vitality.
And then I feared everyone, everything.
And when I turned around I saw that
the child had been sent down from the house
with a hook in his back,
not because he believed my lie
but as a consequence of it.
(I still carry it in the red of my tongue.)
I’ve never seen a punishment quite that
eloquent or quite that effective;
my marveling only stood to emphasize my crime.