Beautiful Inmate

 

No soap for the washcloth, no salt for the brine

that is dinner tonight. Mercury columns

insist the cold is too much for a man to endure

 

but, closer than ever to God, what you do

is endure and endure. With grit. Other inmates

use their washcloths wrong, weave sheepshanks

 

well into the moon time, climb their new ropes

out of the dungeon, out of the range

of exquisite redemption, as the first birds

 

scream. Once it’s the sun time, they toss rocks

they’re tied to off a bridge — but which partition

hope their speeding chests to pierce?

 

All the ocean in this soi-disant world wouldn’t

be enough for their baptism. Beneath

that surface dwells a door that’s very locked.

 

Water would be nice, you suppose, but God

bleeds no fluid when you wound him.

His arteries, if pierced, fart dust.

 

Never the less, the smallest drop would do:

just one lick! From one stalactite! The ocean

and the heavy rain and the morning dew and

 

the rations your cleaved lips find ample

and the tears of other, better-behaved

men would be yours to yank tempests from!