the men without skin are making loud noises
(for Toni Morrison)

& they sit--
humming gnats
like diamond specks
in a swirl of the fading moon

a spotlight of darkness
joining wanderers in the
foam & ink

the songs are lifting the frozen
from their
dirty cradles,
their fingers are talons, blue
and frosty,

they are stiff portraits
dying statues in an endless season...

the foam melts
there is no sun--

if you sit with your shoulderblades
bent forward
the leather straps
won’t bite--

they grin while
they weep,
howling for the lucifer-woman

she crawls from the ash roots
twice a night
thrice a morning

morning never gets here
morning’s a shredded feather from
a dead crow--

she listens to rattlesnakes,
tell her
eat the babies, eat the baby’s eyes

take every skinless man
take and feed
take and feed

takes the men
in a dark fold
of slush and rot
red eyes glint,

torture in the yellow grass--

and this is her ghost, a dark face in
love with pretty points, white teeth
that chew and swallow, fierce in
the blind eyes of lovers
who mix their sex with milk, damned but
forgiven & damned for that forgiveness

she is beloved of a child’s fear

but she ain’t
no more

the men without skin
are making loud noises,

out there by the tree
thumping heads
split skulls
men hunched on drooling calves
men hunched in poison shadows
men bawling for a touch of crow wing,
for softness
for wetness

a purple bruise
puffing up around the bend,
the air is gray with moans
time floats up to a gray year
and she’s gone
and she’s here

with her red nails
with her dark mouth
with her pink teeth
with her heart so cold
so beloved.

© Anthony Vieira