Summer 2009 - THE POTOMAC

The Healing Knife
   David Morse

Here I am, between anesthesia and pain killers
pacing around with arm in sling, elated at having
the cutting part of it over - the optical fiber-guided
miniature mole burrowing snip snip snip in a watery tunnel
through my shoulder, carving away bone with a high-speed burr
that sings to my skeleton, you will be whole again, if you will stop
trying to carry the weight of the world on your fucking shoulders.
To the surgeon, a stout fellow who limps like Hephaestus
armorer of the gods, I say Heal thyself. But first
make me whole. Let me go forth and rake leaves.

The perfect knife is wide and stainless, right for slicing zucchini
into translucency, for splitting a cantaloupe into perspiring halves
or separating raw drumsticks from thighs. Its tip is as perfect
as its heel, the baton of genius. But the perfect blade lacks
versatility. It cannot swerve around an apple core
or circumnavigate the fibrous pit of a mango with the grace
of a worn paring knife, whose black pitted irony knows
what Cain knew, what the conjuror of words must learn,
that the quest for perfection can stop the life-rush of truth,
and sometimes the way to a man's heart snakes past his lies.

This poem grew from my kitchen.
I saw it sprouting amongst the potted rosemary
and snipped it off before it could mutate
into a shopping list.

So what is happening is this:
I am learning to trust my own cursive -
not the two-hand poking at keyboard
translating thoughts into Times New Roman,
plinking away at genocide in Darfur
but the flow of my good right hand -
to trust it as the thrust of soul
past flesh and bone.
Can there be a healing knife?
Yes. And these words the scalpel
I must learn to wield.

No one wants to hear about
the red dust heavy with blood. So:
A funny thing happened on my way
to Darfur.
In the telling, give license
to my foibles, torn rotator cuff,
ups and downs of this crazy mission;
the hubris, zigzagging over ruts
on back of a motorcycle
in a night black as charcoal,
putt-putting over swollen clay
looking for the baobab tree
that marks my lane when nothing
absolutely nothing is familiar,
the haze of cooking fires
drowning stars, and I'm lost
in Arabic, scared out of my mind
and the message tattooed
across my frontal lobe is
to thine own lunacy be true.

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