Rufo Quintavalle

The pure contralto sings in the organ loft
To the pilgrims and agnostics queuing up
To touch the sacred rock with the power,
They say, to heal ailments: grippe; autism;
The body flux; mumps; shingles; sterility;
Tennis elbow; wrist, shoulder or Achilles
Tendinitis; lazy eye; leprosy; atrial flutter;
Tachycardia; pentosuria; benign essential
Tremor; renal calculi; Mad Cow Disease;
Tourette and Townes-Brocks syndrome;
Hyperglycemia; gangrene and cherubism.
The prayer or the hope of all is the same:
Heal me, clean me, make me whole. Not
The way the operating block does, where
What is removed drops horribly in a pail,
Trimming to reinforce
The myth of smoothness:
That there is a form
That all forms strive
And immaculate.
The dream is other:
To be both well and broken,
To live and live fully in
The life
That our bodies
Allow us.
To be without weakness?
To be something less than dead.
The streets are full
Tonight, proud
Troops have returned
To their calm
Towns in Kansas,
To a barely recognizable home,
To Kentucky,
To Iowa, to crowds that
Tell them they
Triumphed overseas,
That now their long trek
Through the desert is over.
Miserable, muddleheaded you!
This is
Only the beginning of chaos.
To have killed,
To have maimed, to have made
Another cease,
This will not pass like delirious fever.
It stays,
Suppurates; it is
So. If the chaplain said
The chaplain lied. If the
Farmer speaks of the fields
Composting bone to humus,
The poet of the graveyard yew,
Pity them.
It is abject
To count on the earth to redeem us,
To ask time
To be
A balsam
And alchemical charm,
A means to make beauty of grief.