The Chest

the man built the chest from familiar fibers
four walls of a grain done tested
by long winter and the run of the Chinook
he built it
with the good of guests in his eyes
and the longsuffering
of home on his back
he asked a tree to the floor
and took its skin and
counted one of few wounds he's dealt a brother

that chest smells like whiskey drift and candlelight,
it smells like
what his wife loved in his shirts for
thirty years of
a mostly graceless marriage dance
propped up
by mercy
and kept in the habit of breathing by music
that was never turned off

the chest's edge is rubbed natural,
the books of each evening slid there and back from the
hand of a tired heart working his damnedest
in choked stride and muscled mornings
to find the ones who'd managed it,
to spill a soul pageward and stay on their feet

the chest slumps slightly right for the weight of a man who
scavenged the transcript of a thousand minds
on the off chance that one or another
would take him back to the lakes and love
that'd claimed his tongue and
shaped his spirit with brands,
a collection of nights
heated white enough to twist him upward
on their landing,
and, in through his eyes, fix secrets not writ for men on
the palms of his every working organ
a chest now yoked with the knowledge
of his whispers when he's lost there, in
the corner of an old man's sofa
splayed in the spasm of a helpless outloud reliving,

they are his greatest works these few lines in extremis
back arched and seeping out the
marrow stocked memory of what all
the listening worlds had told him

it's for this that the chest is warped,
bent violent toward its maker and
disfigured by the pull
which reveals this aging man
too massive to be possible
too important to by dying
too full of a shaded hope
for the attendant trees of paradise
so accustomed to human lightness

we remember his hands in the passing,
tissue skinned
with a grip on his warping chest
selecting words from his bottom caverns
that to his calculus
will drift to us nicely
on the good will of his sacred seas

"may you make with your hands what you love,
and see the grace incumbent
in all the worlds invading you,
seek brothers of a tested grain
and keep pace with the Chinook each fall,
may the gravities about you
pull in all the world
for your awe,
for your listening."

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