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Turandot Fragments

i. La legge è questa

He asks if I’ve noticed a pattern, & I check the memories

buried by the accumulation of my winters.

He means: Are you usually the disinterested one?

I count the men, the restaurants, & I am drunk on it—

the gleaming white of tablecloth, the ambient light. The after?

It is possible to go without touch for so long

that a caress turns skin more animal, more alert.

But he can talk about art & translates Rilke from the German,

so here we are: a second date: a pattern. I try to explain,

look for the answer in an opera by Puccini, Turandot,

the ice princess who places the heads of her suitors on stakes

if they cannot answer her riddles.

ii. O giovinetto!

There is a photograph by Wolfgang Tillmans, The Cock (kiss)

an incandescent grasp in the dark, lit up by lips not just touching

but begging. Tillmans: Paradise is maybe when you dissolve your ego—

a loss of self, being in a bundle of other bodies. (1) They make it look

easy, this dissolution of the self you’ve taken such care to excavate

from the ruins of your temples. They make it look

merciful, binding elements into rock, the sharp knot

of one man’s neck blooming into the softness of another’s.

A consummation of contradictions: body & light.

There is a patch of sun on the sidewalk where Jason once kissed me.

A police officer watched from his parked car. Answer me this:

What would it take to disarm another man’s kiss?

iii. Sui libri sacri

My body is a stage spiked for holy men,

where for centuries they scour & exhaust

sacred texts for a solution to my desire. Finding elegance

in the oleander’s pallid slate, three men collect

its blooms by the armful & prepare dried wreaths

to be laid upon either marriage bed or grave.

Do these priests grow weary of pressing flowers

between books? Of reciting words heard only as whispers

in the wings? The scent of their work fades

like memories of home, exchanged

for a language which sings so nearly of death—

no blue lake, no garden, no forest.

iv. In questa reggia

I pass a dried-up condom on the sidewalk, & my god,