by JOHN TESSITORE
For your wound, I cut a branch
of sagebrush, stir its essence
to a poultice. When coaxed,
the desert yields its wisdom,
its solace if not its cure. Next,
a bandage of clean linen
spun from the blooming flax
that grows in the river basin,
blue petals waxing purple
in the distance like fallen silk.
We distract ourselves with color,
rare pigments and emulsions,
objects of veneration. We honor
the martyrs who suffer for us,
worship the struggles of heroes.
Others, always others. One wonders
how often a problem can be solved
before it stays solved forever.
For now, a salve from nature.
Your lonely pain is your own
but it is not uncommon. Susanna
took her soap and oil to the garden,
bathed her arms beneath the holm
and hungry eyes of the elders,
and endured another trial.
Every godly life is a battle.
Every wife is wise to hide
a knife in her bedclothes.
And every artist who trusts
in artists is bartered. The business
of art has never been innocent.
It nurtures a happy few. For the rest
the price is shame, or the thumb screw.
A daughter of lust, of blind
conquest, learns to guard
her body with her bow, turns
her skill as a tracker against
her pursuers. A different fate
awaits her showman brother,
the one who plays the lyre.
The woman becomes nature.
And where is the father who
promised to protect you?
And where are the watchmen
who swore to answer the alarm?
And where are the healing hands
of the mother who understands
this pain better than you do?
I dress your wound in silence
since I watched in silence too.
John Tessitore has been a newspaper reporter, a magazine writer, and a biographer. He has taught British and American history and literature at colleges around Boston and has run national policy studies on education, civil justice, and cultural policy. Most recently, he has published poems in the American Journal of Poetry, Canary, The Wallace Stevens Journal, and forthcoming in Wild Roof and the Sunday Mornings at the River anthology.