from Sassafras diary 1858

If I couldn’t get
you down from that

holler tree where you keep

the bottles

to sit

to hear
the tea


steep steep as it

does seep seep seep
or some such thing

through my skin

to my soul


I watched you

while waiting
over the basin
in amber

light your lips muttering curses and prayers

not knowing the meanings

so if then

we drink

together in peace
If then

we are

bound together
If then lain down

if then

it’s not over

(midwinter 1848)

When my fevers came
You crawled in

Until dawn
Digging up the deepest
Sassafras root
From the dried mud
Hills and I heard
You boiling those root
iron cauldron

And I heard you blowing
The sticks that fired its smoke
You came in to me
Carrying the root like snakes
And steeped them over
body until
Those vapors
searing to skin
when I went

dried-up inside that
I saw the torturers from my
Life tumbling in front of my eyes
eating my soul
out of the livid

flight saw you
Lay over me dripping
Water from your mouth
Between my blistering lips and eyes
And you bled out the poisons
And demons from
My head and
The devils in flight
from putrefaction

if it tried to
Break your body
This land,
When you
When your
rabid eyed
saw everything but
the miracles of the sky
Didn’ come to you
As you glared down the sun
scarred your eyes
tore your skin
When you finally screamed
I lived.

(year of the dead lords 1849)

Those days and night
Hours on hour
When you drunk all
Of the liquor

that was supposed to
Keep us all winter and
Ran Out into the woods naked
Against the snow and I found you
Frozen on the rocks under
That rotted dam with
Your blood froze on your brow
Your eyes horrid
Like they were seeing death
miracles at the same time
Your face sunken as a three day corpse

I carried you on my shoulder
Across the river and
Couldn’t feel my feet or hands
Ice was breaking off of my hairs
And all I heard was it my breathing hard
And the death of my footfall
and you slid through my arms

like a mother damned
Cradling her dead child.

I tied you to the bed
Next to the fire rocks
And I read the Christian Bible all day
And night for days and nights and
All moments were one
Then I chanted
The Buddhist prayers I learnt
On the ships in the devil seas
Out of Cape Horn
I said these prayers to you
Over and over and the Tranta
Of seed soundings of ages
That I heard from Pyrian on
The Indian Ocean
Sri ram, shivaya Ram
Ram shivaya ram sri ram
I hollered out

in my soul
fell silent
over the crag imagining


the trances

in this book of yours
With other prayers from the Jews
saying from the Gypsy slaves of Europe

who survived and dare not
seeing the cruelty

of kings and gods

I prayed over them
Prayed and prayed when you were
Firing through this terror
The torments of your soul
On you face and
Your body stiffened
Pitching like the sea
Your organs swelled through

Out of your body
And I gave up
And I gave up
And I gave up and all gods were

cursed upon my lips

& in my heart I renounced their souls
And I screamed
And I clawed and pounded the ugly lies back into the ground.

when you woke
When you woke
When you woke

I heard you growl

“Get me out of these fucking ropes you fucking welp.”
And then you just
Were cleaved to my neck
Licking my skin and then you were with me again
You were youou were

(summer 1849)

you were with me again

I saw you in that fine sky
on the outcrop
Your torso like marble
e’er o’er the fields
This again
Just as I saw you at first
And you came down
To me
As the wind timed
The shade by us and you knelt
At my feet
Took my arm and I saw
The steel flecks
In your coal eyes.

The next winter I knew
How you
Were dead inside even when
You said the same things and we did
The same things, but you had no life
Even when I had learned your ways
I knew you were here but I lost you again

I stood in the black autumn creek
Every night where we first loved each other.
Night when you passed
Out on that holy fire
I shivered
That I would hate you
I must finish my life and
Go back on the sea and I prayed that
If then
Your soul would return.

I saw flames
On the water
Heard the vile echoes
Seep, seepseepseep

seep through your flesh
That was red and wet with
Standing over that flame
Like a god cast out
Through miracles visited on this night
we cast out to sea
As if we scarce knew then,

If then,

we lay bound to go

-Sassafras diary 1859