Poem-a-Day Friday: Thomas Heise

Several years ago, Chris bought me a couple of books of poetry for Christmas. They were both new poets (their first books) and Chris had read an article recommending them. At some point I read Thomas Heise's book Horror Vacui. I know this because my ugly boy-handwriting is scratched all over several pages in pencil. I picked it back up this week after it has sat on the shelf for years. It's completely new to me. How did I wait so long to read this?

I wish I could tell you something about Thomas Heise. I know nothing: about his writing, about his other work. But I can tell you that I've connected to several of his poems this week. Here's one of them. (Before you read this, it's good to know that " Pieta"--Italian for "pity"--is a Michaelangelo sculpture of the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Christ.)

My Pieta

by Thomas Heise

He held me bone-tight. He held me backward. He held me high with the bellows to smoke the beehive, hanging delicate as a lung in the branches and bleeding a half-gallon of honey while he held me. He held me in the bathtub, scrubbed ashes from my small tongue. He held me in the pond of this hand, as if I were a tadpole, and wouldn't let go. He held me hostage. I would hide in the dumpster. Under the rain bucket during thunderstorms. Holding my breath among the lawn statues of gnomes and giant toadstools until he found me, held me, walked me home. When I fell asleep in the attic, he would carry me down and sing to me. One winter he held a rope, lowered me by the ankles to the well's bottom. I ascended upside-down through the dark thermometer with a blood orange in my teeth. He had a beard of new snow. I held cold to his pant leg while our dog leapt and snapped at a sound in the air only he could hear. When I fell in love, he reached out to me and held me down when she slinked away on our dirt road alone, sheepish, depressed. He held me as the constellations mingled through the torn curtain. A beanstalk sprouted through a hold in our above-ground pool. A band of raccoons commandeered the upstairs and stared at us as he held me in his reading chair. He grew older, he held my ear to his artificial heart on a daily basis. He grew sick, he held me like a suckling child. We grew smaller and smaller and would crawl after each other through tall grass growing through our carpet. The walls of the house fell away. We curled in a bird's nest. I could barely hold his tiny thumb in my fingers. We felt a shell growing around us. The dog was barking. And then rain, we could hear it tapping, we held each other, then a blast of hot light roared through.