Chana Bloch

The Color Green

                                in memory of Mark O’Brien
Two floors up, at the corner of Hearst and Oxford,
he's clamped for good				
in an iron lung. When it's time to eat
he inches his head a sweaty mile 
to the edge of the pillow. It takes a while. 

His brilliant bloodshot light-blue eyes
steer me from cupboard to fridge: 	 	  
he would like his chicken burrito 
cut into bite-size pieces,  			    	
a bent straw for his glass of water, please. 		

How does the body live its only life 
in a cage? I watch him compute the distance 
from bar to bar, and squeeze 
between them
with a violent compression, a fury of bursting free
that doesn't last.		

His will is a crowbar, angled to pry up				
the rooted intractable weight
of matter. I watch him slyly, I check out 
the way he does it. He 
does it. But pain in its absolute privacy 			 
weighs what it weighs. 

I come here to study the soul, posing one question  	  	 
a dozen ways, most of them silent.  
If I'm only a body, he laughs,		   
I'm up shit creek.  His laugh	    	 
a gritty eruption of rock, salt and breath.

Like me he writes poems  				 
but he does it letter by letter   
on a propped keyboard, the mouth-stick
wobbling between his teeth. 
That kind of speed keeps a poet accountable.  		 
He won't ever say The grass is very green
when it's only green.