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if i were but a sister of mercy 
i’d have no disgrace in this death of a bed 

if i were but a sister of mercy 
i’d have not the regrets of love unsaid 

if i were but a sister of mercy 
i’d have not the rot of love unwed 

if i were but a sister of mercy 
all that is outside would not fight its way 
to coal in my carrion heart 

if i were but a sister of mercy 
i’d not live this perpetual death of the soul and the flesh 


x

if i were but a dove of peace 
i’d sit on the left hand of my found father 

if i were but a dove of peace 
i’d look from my perch on all the less others 

if i were but a dove of peace 
i’d know air less fetid, less crowded 
than that i share in these cloisters, these dungeons, these chambers 
traded plush for poor 
but lacking nonetheless 
each chamber of house or heart all void and lifeless lacking in vent 

if i were but a dove of peace 
i’d not have traded fathers and therein killing one for the un-kissing of the other 

if i were but a dove of peace 
i would not take the word and deeds of a would-been saint 
and used them against father and mother 

if i were but a dove of peace 
i’d less impoverish the souls beneath me 
i’d less cage them in soul-killing and eye-rheuming piety 
and their fingers would not crack 
and their breath would come easy 
and their step might spring at meadows 
and their gaze might rise above these killing rooms, 
above these cold-burning candles 

shorn of these stifling contemplations 
these perpetual, circular, contemplations 
these devotions devoid of life 
devoid of meaning 
devoid of the will free to render them seeming 
with the pensity of sincerity, instead of the paucity of obedience 

if i were but one of assumption 
i’d be able to fight off this consumption 
the catarrh in these lungs 
the gryppe on this heart that has such blood running soon from the doors of this nunnery 
out the doors, 
through the bars 
into the blind streets 
into the streets blind to gore from this nunnery 

if i were a sister of charity 
i’d take him by the strong jaw and weak heart 
and bend him to my lips 
and bend him to my breasts 
and bind him to my hips 
and take out the lust and love of ploughshares
against the skin soft of these my proteges 
and not wither them 
and not worry out their hair 
and not weary out the grasses of their hearts to straw upon our stone floors 
which always burns white for this straw always dry 
for no liquid but that in the lungs allowed herein these cloisters 
and cages i’ve built for my sisters in mercy 

and him escaping his manhood to bestiality and not to me 
and winning canons from crop-haired men in these shorn times of death 
inside this city of plenty 
where leather is worked into wallets and wonders 
while hearts are tanned-well into plates of cuttlefish fit only for the bottoms of footwear 
for the stepping
and the canons and the laurels and wreaths of peace mere bangles on death, 
on the man i would love 

and there are no saints 

only he who took me from my father, 
saying “i’ll supplant him … you’ll need no other” 
then commanded “neither you nor i shall have what we seek” 
plait the skin and jerk the meat 
and sleep on stone floors in coats of burlap apart 

this robust body now dried to jerk, 
the last step is it fades to white smoke, 
falls back to earth 
and we will celebrate the new pope’s new birth 
as we settle into the folds of the earth 

graveless, gormless 
shameless and formless, 
dead before our parents 
them forced to watch us wither and die 
and powerless to say where we will lie 
with nothing to grasp and no place to cry. 


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