Since 1996 Volume XXI
Paul Granger’s Wound
You were the smallest, Paul —
the shortest, leanest, blondest, bravest
in our crew — and you have retreated less far
into darkness. I remember the day
that would etch your wound into my mind,
each catch and notch of memory glistening
with your blood. There was bright sunlight
and deep blue sky a blaze of white roses
and the dark gray haze of the new state road
the highway commission had bulldozed
into our lives.
You were wearing a round-necked
polo shirt and rolled-up jeans, a black leather belt
and high-backed sneakers. Zigzag stripes crested
on your chest in vertical waves that flowed
from neck to groin: a map of some watery terrain
no friend or parent could decipher. I remember
how the dark blue denim rippled over your thighs,
the lapping rivulets at your knees, the way
your gold-brown hair was parted.
At our water hole
between parkway and woods, your clothes dropped off
and you dove into the cold spring water all of us knew
to be sacred: a dark pool released from the dictates
of nature where we could breathe without constraint
without the harsh odor of fear stinging our nostrils.
You dove and we cheered, living for the moment
in the rare oxygen of the underlife you had plunged into
feeling again the icy waters of time wash over us.
And then you broke the spell, bursting the surface
as you held up your hand, gashed open with that raw
diagonal slash that even now, five decades later,
wildly pulses — that wound written deep in your flesh
with the jagged edge of glass from a smashed beer bottle —
your ruined hand held up for us to witness
in all its bloody splendor your wound, Paul: the sky
ripped open just when we needed it whole.
From In the Path of Lightning: Selected Poems (Time Being Books, St. Louis)
© 2012 by Charles Adès Fishman.