number, how sweet you
were to me! all night you bled
your calm into the wet wash
of mud and lotus sickening along
you awoke in a heave of dust,
knocked about by men, drunk
with an oily luck. an anchor
tipped its hat to you, girding itself
before a kiel sky, an algae skin,
and the ax who granted us
a second star. little number,
your body flaked with wet sand,
you suffered every constellation,
scourged yourself in the desert.
were offered bread and fed
with winnowed flecks of rust.
your hair, a beautiful auburn,
was tamped beneath a veil till
you rotted into sinews of muscle.
before the eyes of priests, little
number, you were bound. the bindings
thick, and smelling of horsehair,
you strained a single arm to scratch
at our faces, hovering like a hungry mask.
A friend in my workshop mentioned after
reading this that she saw this as an excellent, though strange, effort
to write a poem devoted to God. Only later did I pass on this grew out
of a desire to write a series of poems personifying the mark of the beast.