The Democratic Republic of Heaven

It’s false, the world we carry inside us
like a kernel of unpopped corn in a chicken’s crop,
or its twin the grain of gravel, the false tooth.
This winter light; the red haze of maple buds
beginning to swell; the story in the paper about
the walled-off beach in Haiti
where cruise ships disgorge their passengers
without telling them where they are,
& the local man interviewed for the story saying
They want to come here, because they’ve been everywhere else
& my country is the loveliest of them all
it hurts, this world, it makes us ache with longing.
Yet no amount of saliva will grow a pearl around it,
because it is not the real world, which we do not know.

But the world knows us. It doesn’t stop
where we do, at the fingertips, doesn’t get sidetracked
in the labyrinths of lung & gut. We glow
in its shadow the way the moon glows, lurid,
during an eclipse. It lurks at the end
of the light in a tunnel formed by two mirrors turned
face to face. It seeds us with cities,
this world that was once a womb.
When we die, the abandoned residents
eat themselves out of house & home.
Our corpses glow with the heat of their brief revolutions.

I gave everything I had to the rich,
who seemed in greater need of it
than the poor, who are accustomed to getting by
on corn spilled by the harvester & the widow’s mite.
I poured an entire bottle of expensive ointment
over the head of a former prostitute
& watched it run down her face, titillating
all my companions but one —
the zealot of the bunch. I figured I was buying
my own death sentence, & why stint on that?
Oh Peter, stone of my gizzard, I’ll be back!
But like the wing hiding in the wishbone,
I want to take my own sweet time.