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Alison Stine

                        Johnny Cash 1932-2003

It was easy to say, young. It was easy to say,
summer. Summer. Fruit bled from trees.
I loved a married man, and in the months after,

it was easy to say I wanted trust. I wanted
wisdom. I wanted my father. Doctors said it,
perched on chairs; friends, leaning over coffee.

But what I wanted was dead. What I wanted
crawled into a Tennessee cave to die-
the country singer, clad in black, hopped up

on amphetamines-but did not die, not then.
Then: the rocks were like palms, a choir
of elbows. Jesus smiled from the water-

cupped pit. And when he returned, leaves
clung to his chest. He sweated out the drugs,
married, lived to be seventy, sang holy, holy.

Do you understand? It is not the going under.
That we managed, ascending the stairs,
steered toward the bedroom. Each push

broke through my body until he was past
my body, until he was piercing the quilt,
the frame, the rug, the floor, the plaster-

stitched ceiling with perfect stars, a path
like the newspaper picture of the burned house.
Upstairs, a fire cut through the bed, the blankets,

clear to the first story, in the sleeping shape
of the child who had died. He could give me death,
the utterance of desire, the slick walls,

the mineral scent, the weight, the lips, enough
skin to drown. What he could not
give, what I wanted: it was the rising up.

Alison Stine

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