© My Alexandria: Poems by Mark Doty (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1993): 33-36. PS 3554 O798M9 1993 Robarts Library
1The crested iris by the front gate waves
2its blue flags three days, exactly,
3then they vanish. The peony buds'
4tight wrappings are edged crimson;
5when they open, a little blood-color
6will ruffle at the heart of the flounced,
7unbelievable white. Three weeks after the test,
8the vial filled from the crook
9of my elbow, I'm seeing blood everywhere:
10a casual nick from the garden shears,
11a shaving cut and I feel the physical rush
12of the welling up, the wine-fountain
13dark as Siberian iris. The thin green porcelain
15rocks and wobbles every night, spins
16and spells. It seems a cloud of spirits
18children grabbing for the telephone,
19happy to talk to someone who isn't dead yet?
20Everyone wants to speak at once, or at least
21these random words appear, incongruous
22and exactly spelled: energy, immunity, kiss.
23Then: M. has immunity. W. has.
24And that was all. One character, Frank,
25distinguishes himself: a boy who lived
26in our house in the thirties, loved dogs
27and gangster movies, longs for a body,
28says he can watch us through the television,
29asks us to stand before the screen
30and kiss. God in garden, he says.
31Sitting out on the back porch at twilight,
32I'm almost convinced. In this geometry
33of paths and raised beds, the green shadows
34of delphinium, there's an unseen rustling:
35some secret amplitude
36seems to open in this orderly space.
37Maybe because it contains so much dying,
38all these tulip petals thinning
39at the base until any wind takes them.
40I doubt anyone else would see that, looking in,
41and then I realize my garden has no outside, only is
42subjectively. As blood is utterly without
43an outside, can't be seen except out of context,
44the wrong color in alien air, no longer itself.
45Though it submits to test, two,
46to be exact, each done three times,
47though not for me, since at their first entry
48into my disembodied blood
49there was nothing at home there.
50For you they entered the blood garden over
51and over, like knocking at a door
52because you know someone's home. Three times
54and then the incoherent message. We're
55the public health care worker's
56nine o'clock appointment,
57she is a phantom hand who forms
58the letters of your name, and the word
60and wait for the god if it weren't
61so cold, the blue moon huge
62and disruptive above the flowering crab's
63foaming collapse. The spirits say Fog
64when they can't speak clearly
65and the letters collide; sometimes
66for them there's nothing outside the mist
67of their dying. Planchette,
68peony, I would think of anything
69not to say the word. Maybe the blood
70in the flower is a god's. Kiss me,
71in front of the screen, please,
72the dead are watching.
73They haven't had enough yet.
74Every new bloom is falling apart.
75I would say anything else
76in the world, any other word.
14] our homemade Ouija's planchette: a three-cornered board that rests on casters and a vertical pencil that does "automatic writing" as the players' hands move the board over an alphabet. Back to Line
17] panicles: pyramidal flower clusters. Back to Line
53] two tests to find antibodies against HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). Back to Line
59] P.: "Positive." Back to Line
RPO poem Editors:
This poem cannot be published anywhere without the written consent of Mark Doty.