are branches scraping an empty metal bowl
at dawn—
are urchin birds sifting through bark
and brush, asphalt and gravel—
are raggwool-skeined hills unraveling—
are dove purling from a basket-weave
of pine—

are starved—until one cardinal
wells, a needle prick in the pecan tree.
That morsel of color, a hint
of blood makes me say the pecan husks
still on the tree are winter flowers,
and the cedar is not dying
but variegated—

to say my friend twitching through frowns
and grimaces of drugged sleep
is an infant, and his fingers, playing
invisible keys, are not calculating
—banker, Baptist, payment
in hard, cold cash—but reliving
his photographs:

hay field salted with frost; bluebirds
fresh-hatched and gaping; a box-turtle,
beaked in the satin red of a tomato—plush
as the inside of a coffin—
When are we not hungry?

To buzzards, the charitable road
gives dead possum for free—
raw wound scabbed in blood-black,
the ravenous birds now peeling off with
cleric's rustle, hinge's creak,
now settling in a tree, muttering cure curate
and eyeing me, the heretic who takes
but doesn't eat.

But you, my possum friend, what you see
is a mystery, and how it uses you
brilliantly. I steal back time
and again, fixing you
clearly, stain by stain, until your bones
are stripped of flesh and stench
and dragged away—
I say nothing
nothing, nothing
until the chant repudiates, flies
in the face of nothing so nothing the very

gasp is something
sharp, insistent, cunning—
something that gives us this day—
beggartick, burdock, cocklebur—
barb and spine stitched into shanks,
shoe lining, socks—
kneeling here in these curious
whispering weeds—
what makes fast keeps feeding
hearing the buzzards curse—

O fanatic
may you blister—
Your shadow favors the inbred
emboldened worm,
the ingratiating fly,
and considers not
who cannot afford, unearned,
unearned ligament, tendon, intestine.

With our flight you purchased
meat that your eyes alone,
because they eat
dishonestly, steal outright.
We are stained by what we breathe
freely, but you,
by abstaining, contaminate.

Approximate, unclean
licker, finish and be off
that we may return
to the stench of friends
who feed us;

and after us, flies;
and after flies,