There were violet edges. A bird breathed against his cheek, pushing past. A bird breathed against his cheek, the sound drowned out. Perched sparrows made of tin, smashed bread, jewels we know are made of glass.
I felt the grief, but numbness crept into every cavity. I pulverize the grief. There, in the vets’ operating room, I watch the surgeon pull out a dog’s uterus, a “V” for victory over cell death; she makes small cuts with a razor from a sanitized bag. I deflect my grief; I wonder if I’m doing penance. How many animals must I save to move toward the light.
There was a lifting, a veil swimming out of his mouth into sunlight, dissolving. The back of his throat cleared, and the feathers formed a wind around him. Deep in him, dove ghost churned, and the birds settled onto rocks and branches.
I write my name over and over in the minds of the people who hate me until it’s just a background hum. I write my name.
The birds write their songs in dirt, and Francis does not want to read so much and yet, every song says, I want a dove to crush and bless me. Absolve me of what I can’t understand. Francis kisses each bird, his mouth burning with love.
The first time I kissed another man, we trailed into a restaurant together, salvina and choked river, and when he asked if he could kiss me, hair falling in our faces, and when he asked if he could kiss me, on the street in the cold with our gloveless hands wrapped around each other’s waists, all the way to a movie where he put his hands under my vest and whispered in my ear, I want you. I want a dove who will crush and bless me. Absolve me of what I cannot understand.
Francis felt their grief, spilling into his mouth like the oniony skin of failing resolve, and he whispered his resolve to the birds now, in the kind words he saved for Leo on nights next to each other on scratchy mats and spoke of stars they couldn’t see, the stars God saved for himself.
Francis was too busy to think about dying—sunflowers, wisteria, bending to kiss his feet. Sitting shirtless on his frayed couch was living too. Francis mouthed resolve to pill bugs in the couch cushion, the house gecko flattening her body into a bubbled cape.
Summer came; thousands of kittens mewed in the shelter lobby, some covered in maggots and trash. He was too busy to think about dying.
Sitting shirtless on the frayed couch in his apartment was living too. You are the morning, I am the night. The night comes in spite of them, the people who want you dead. The morning comes too.
Little daffodils pushed past dirt inside him. He imagined soft bears, Leo in flannel, Leo in a beekeeper suit stoned and twirling.
He imagined soft bears, photos of them on twitter in above-ground pools, on grody decks with margaritas in their hands. He imagined tracing the punctuation curls on their chests, shaving the places they couldn’t reach on their backs. Francis imagined being dough-soft too, his antler angles dissolving like salt on the rims.
Leo sleeping with piles of men, men upon men. The top who kissed Leo’s scars, and the way Leo cried, coming home to Francis on a heady afternoon with his eyes oiled. My desire bends somewhere else, Francis said, holding Leo as the birds flashed past, as pieces of God did for him.
Possums died. Kittens died, umbilical cords still dangling. Blue crabs in the thousands, fed to captive seals. A boa died, triangle head full of puss. A dog tased and shot by the cops, a hiccupping wound. Late-night seizures. Viral rabbits. A thimble-sized sparrow and one rotten egg. Turkey plumped on fluids. Parvo puppies died, distended. Fur piles, asphyxiations. The fancy animals died too, embossed pedigrees digitized and trashed. Turtles with cracked shells. Brain infections, water lungs, rat poison. Fleas died on their feline continents. Parasites shriveled in their hosts. Tumors elsewhere. Poor circulation, heat stroke. Possums died. Kittens died, umbilical cords still dangling.
You and I are free and I am sensing your warmth under glass. You and I are free and what is eternal but a dehydrated float in space, the stars burning off our blood. How we make a home in words they called to keep us a death wish, Francis, how they made us wish for death.
How you sun me with glowing temples, nails crusted with blood. You and I are free. The toads sing for you, throats beaded with slime. The bears sing for you, men with hands like burning toast.
You and I are free: magnolia petals kiss your beard, my face. We dust ourselves in pollen to become trees ourselves. Francis, our love is not conditional but a condition. The stars burn off this love – edges that eat us like moths because we want to be eaten.