Variation on a Theme by Saint Blaise (Text Version)
by Henry Goldkamp
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most evenings, maw stretches out her dishwater
dress. scratches her moon calf
with the other paw. lights bottle
rockets with ultra-lite cherries—
her secondary air, her mint kiss.
this welting sky
deafens the sun,
widdershins the hum
of its heat. of its hymn played
the dance: my wife trotting
to the body laughs at the rubber
of a catfishy stink. she puts out
out his whiskers with a rainbow
sparkler, bums a smoke off maw
and sparks his mask to magic.
bonhomie bottom feeder.
we watch his jaws, how his jaws
of hell gape, purse, maw for breath
in the green crackle all see
sickle visions in this fertile valley:
flathead grease in the sheath of my dead
mawmaw’s skirt. in my panting maw’s side.
we knife. we sup.
my wife wipes her arm across her peachy mustache.
and what of our drowned daughter’s laughter?
she only frolicked
but a minute—
isle smeared with her limp wash—
after, we congregate on behalf
of our mouths and throats. pews of paint
buckets flipped and dripping.
our fingers sticky with fresh weep.
our peccavis refuse clamor.
sobs swallowed nor hollers spit
hickey the rictus, that pink abandon,
a silo riddled with bright kitties
and stray graffiti. we watch the words
cut bloodlines out that bluecat.
we see the dreams noodle her
out the wet nest, oust the hellbent.
the river eats our kin cuz we sizzle its fish.
catch and release is mantra
we heed not. I warned maw: don’t do
cat ladies here. can’t quit their fuss once
the ferals plunge to their five-gallon coffins.
their sharp-toothed mew given no rehearsal.
infect the land with their fights and their fucks.
then slur their purrs underwater with no luck.
our common ground: we all roar the swansong bald.
my wife gargles bible verses at 5 am in the hopes
of hissing sacred and shrill and sharp.
what has our tongue?
what has our tongue that this river don’t?
these three women mourn with me a bottle.
o these three queens of surefire rigs.
o these riparian saints and dentists.
o ain’t speaking in tongues redundant?
we freak water tepid and blessed
up a crazy straw.
we wet denizens unchurched
in violent tabernacle.
sign a criss
in glottal stop. incisors fall
like cloud-frogs or petals of rotten windmills—
we are our god,
the one we wonder, the one
scaring us, making us
safe at the top step.
two roman candles click
a cardboard X. this fertile valley
cursed, we pass over ourselves.
my wife thumbs her callous in a gill,
gushes its purple milk, dabs her wrists.
perfume of death, rich
enough to make her green.
a tongue of usualness falls
at our feet, flops, flops, snagged.
look hard to its swollen eye,
its ripped lip rolled in sand:
she’s just big enough to eat. and
you know what some say: you are
you are what
what you are what
Henry Goldkamp’s “Variation on a Theme by Saint Blaise” appears in Flock 23: Kith and Kin.
Henry Goldkamp is from Saint Louis. Recent work appears in Indiana Review, Diagram, South Carolina Review, and Notre Dame Review. His public art projects have been covered by Time and NPR.