Skins Over Pompeii (after Pat Lowther)

These are the things that I don’t want to know
that I don’t want to believe
what rests between ‘us’

you write your skin over pompeii
narrowing the focus on stone remains that lift
out of burnt embers, lava and ash.

What else is there? I ask, to find this poem in a compatriot–
the restless search among a place or time, this capsule
that we both know, the ancient city we share

you were hammered, drowned, blood sodden
I am here, now alive, having escaped my killer, my destroyer
of song. It is thirty five. That many years later from

your murder, my first year born. We meet, our skins
hurting with beauty, this poem not published yet
but I am the new flesh of your land, 1975.

My birth certificate is proof of the semen that
has moved from blind and lucent [Pompeii] stone
to speech transferred here, on this granite shield

don’t drop these words over me Pat
or I will want to write that I know them
this tongue/skin/bone/my breath burned to pure gesture

Now, our absolute stations of a dance with words
mimic the intricate griefs found in the catacombs
I have skinned their surface with my hands

with my fingers, too many times
housed in my hollow self
whereupon I return home to find you here

skin over pompeii, my friend
I know this/that place, my blunt tattoo
—a sumptuous usefulness of flesh informs

strong decisive faces
My tattooed woman; she is inked,
what was juice is now skin over Pompeii

Here on your trajectory of death
is my awakening to these words
This is our Leviathan II

it joins populous as all sub-cellars
I went there often
heart and lungs I moved

always pursuing
the sensual words and forms
visiting the hurting ecstasy of rock

the gut’s sorrows
where light washed through doorways
I return often like a sudden horizon of sea,

I move with the wide and wishing
inside the mind’s oblique lusts
you know this, you are here too.

We are exquisitely skilled—our words
their eyes
that are like wishes

our songs become the stones
over ground and territory.
A Stone Diary.

These are the things that I don’t want to know
that I don’t want to believe
that rest between ‘us’.

Skin Over Pompeii

That city houses in
my hollow self:
Leviathan 1
my skin tents over catacombs
populous as all sub-cellars
of intricate griefs:
of those dry mouths
that shaped to love or malice,
moved always pursuing
the sensual words.
The semen of speech;
and eyes that were like wishes
exquisitely skilled
now blind and lucent stone.
Heart and lungs I move
among blunt hands
hurting with beauty
like a sudden horizon of sea,
where light washed through doorways
o the strong decisive faces,
the wide and wishing;
and what was juice
and sumptuous usefulness of flesh
is burned to pure gesture
absolute as stations of a dance
for the mind’s oblique lusts
and the gut’s sorrows.

Pat Lowther, 1975, published posthumously.


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