The Completion of Shadows

G. C. Waldrep

Oh friends I am a prison to all that lies within me.
It burns the way phosphorus burns.  It bears the raven’s flag
into the ragged country called by its natives Los Arpas.
There I saw butterflies clustering at the torn throat

of the fallen antelope which came to me later
in a dream, and nourished me also with its flesh.
In the bellows of my chest a golden chant was brewing
like a cloud caught in a beautiful woman’s jewelry.

And death what would you drink I asked of the body
and its innumerable spirits.  And death what would you ride
I called into the red stable where I kept my sex
among the blue wheat of the church’s gapped treasures.

I was offered a living sprig from the temple gate
and asked to plant it wherever I called
home—now I call home the place where the living sprig
tattoos the earth.  I drink from it, as a sparrow

from the glistening rock.  There was an emperor, once,
in the Book of the Martyrs; I returned his gaze.
And I wore a strip of cloth around my biceps
when I was a young man, for the sake of the beautiful—

dawn stripped it from me.  Now I see with the eyes of bread.
And death answers I am afraid, I am so afraid,
my little one.
  Don’t be frightened, I say, leading death
into his narrow cell.  I sing death a lullaby

amid the brightening bones, knowing that when death
wakes he will recall his true love and leave me here,
even as death’s guards pursue.  I who also am
a son of David, I who with lilac fletched my lover’s scar.