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The crested iris by the front gate wavesits blue flags three days, exactly,

then they vanish. The peony buds'tight wrappings are edged crimson;

when they open, a little blood-colorwill ruffle at the heart of the flounced,

unbelievable white. Three weeks after the test,the vial filled from the crook

of my elbow, I'm seeing blood everywhere:a casual nick from the garden shears,

a shaving cut and I feel the physical rushof the welling up, the wine-fountain

dark as Siberian iris. The thin green porcelainteacup, our homemade Ouija's planchette,

rocks and wobbles every night, spinsand spells. It seems a cloud of spirits

numerous as lilac panicles vie for occupancy --children grabbing for the telephone,

happy to talk to someone who isn't dead yet?Everyone wants to speak at once, or at least

these random words appear, incongruousand exactly spelled: energy, immunity, kiss.

Then: M. has immunity. W. has.And that was all. One character, Frank,

distinguishes himself: a boy who livedin our house in the thirties, loved dogs

and gangster movies, longs for a body,says he can watch us through the television,

asks us to stand before the screenand kiss. God in garden, he says.

Sitting out on the back porch at twilight,I'm almost convinced. In this geometry

of paths and raised beds, the green shadowsof delphinium, there's an unseen rustling:

some secret amplitudeseems to open in this orderly space.

Maybe because it contains so much dying,all these tulip petals thinning

at the base until any wind takes them.I doubt anyone else would see that, looking in,

and then I realize my garden has no outside, only issubjectively. As blood is utterly without

an outside, can't be seen except out of context,the wrong color in alien air, no longer itself.

Though it submits to test, two,to be exact, each done three times,

though not for me, since at their first entryinto my disembodied blood

there was nothing at home there.For you they entered the blood garden over

and over, like knocking at a doorbecause you know someone's home. Three times

the Elisa Test, three the Western Blot,and then the incoherent message. We're

the public health care worker'snine o'clock appointment,

she is a phantom hand who formsthe letters of your name, and the word

that begins with P. I'd lie outand wait for the god if it weren't

so cold, the blue moon hugeand disruptive above the flowering crab's

foaming collapse. The spirits say Fogwhen they can't speak clearly

and the letters collide; sometimesfor them there's nothing outside the mist

of their dying. Planchette,peony, I would think of anything

not to say the word. Maybe the bloodin the flower is a god's. Kiss me,

in front of the screen, please,the dead are watching.

They haven't had enough yet.Every new bloom is falling apart.

I would say anything elsein the world, any other word.

Copyright 1993 My Alexandria: Poems by Mark Doty University of Illinois Press

Digital Facsimile of Original Pages My Alexandria, page 33 My Alexandria, page 34 My Alexandria, page 35 My Alexandria, page 36

© Mark Doty