Malinda Markham

On the X-ray

The body grows its own numbers: we find a forest
in there,
pod upon pod. There is tenderness
in dividing an object
from its twin and calling it firm. The body swallows
the night sky and hums like wires inside.
Within the walls of my sleep, animals burst
into flower. Their wide-boned features
shiver in the haze. I have seen skin
so transparent the sky
could not hide in it. One could make a song
of this negligence. It would sound
like hooves rocketing the forest
and the imprints filling with rain. There is
no care in powdered milk, no history in small
round eyes. On the holy mountain,
a cacophony of voices peels skin
from stones. Who is fit to arrange the tattered
sounds into pleas? There is someone,
I hear, ready beneath the tangle
of wire, held by the three
main conditions of pain. Leaves pounded into liquid
flavor the wine. Dried plums make the rice
easier to eat. Behind the night walls,
small animals palpate the fiberglass and sleep. They harbor
no fear and nearly articulate
skin. Ribs sing through swelling. When patients
cannot speak, we give them a mercy pail
to hold. We hammer masks
to the wall to soak up warmth
and leave us cold enough to eat what we find
to fill what is slipping away.