To make clean tongues

To make clean tongues
for Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings

Emmy was once the first
in all languages. The last saint
she made in bed knew this.

It’s why when she told him
she’d never been anywhere
but hidden high in trees, pure
as Dionysius of the Desert atop
his pole, he could do nothing

but believe her. Bobbed black hair,
morphine clean brown eyes, body
of a hungry young boy, he saw

that she would make love
to anyone; listened to her death
cries across the cabaret stage,
yet I dance my final breath;
shared with her each new disease.

Like this she took him to God,
confessed whole nations, trapped him
in medieval mountains and dark text.

He sought for he new sounds, wrote her
name into lines from Solomon,
translated them each to the tongue
of any other man who might
have passed her thighs before him.

She recited each phoneme fluently,
let them melt and drip down her throat
to burn each old word clean like acid.

Dark I am but lovely
Je suis noire mais belle
Yo soy negrada pero hermosa
and on and on, until each movement
of her lips bore only ash and bone,

where it should have been a babe,
a block of wood to cradle and carve
out a new nation, new words.

So he wrote her new prayers
in their own secret tongue
elomen elomen lefitalominal
to teach her how to survive on
winter mornings when he was gone–

split the tips of birch twigs, dig Queen
Anne’s lace roots, make flour from
pine, take note of each dying sound.

 

Published in Maitenant 4: Dada Poetry by Three Rooms Press and Natural Language: Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Anthology

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