Color Negative

Oh Jorie Graham how
I used to want you those photographs
of you back
in the seventies my God how lovely
you were but I know
now it would
never do for here's this piece today about
your dog catching
a bullet and you dance
around the body like an Arapaho
calling out
to spirits from the past to
the smoke curling over the crematorium to angels who
lie to the scent
                       of lilacs to
to the ravens
cawing overhead and if I were
with you if you'd
brought those pages to show me brought
them to the chair
                               by the picture window
and knelt to watch me read them watch
my lips moving after
the funeral after I spent
an hour on my knees digging at the clay with the broken
shovel like a trenching
                                            tool raising it
and stabbing the earth stabbing
until I'd gotten
three inches down and you
way up there
holding back peering out from behind
the closed curtains
and the body
rigid in my hands like a piece
of driftwood
cradling it carefully lest you
think I have no feelings
my back to you
                  lest you see my face see
the body changing
to cardboard to a charcoal sketch
mouth frozen open
the hairs standing out like quills when I break
one of the legs
to make it fit the hole oh Jorie
Jorie Graham we'll
                              never make it
how could we how Lord help me
can I weep for your
dead dog
and the dead Jews you link him to
the children the dying
you read about in your books all those

you gather round you 
like the quilted patterns on the bed
the scratchy photographs
                           of the dead piled on top
of one another tumbling
into the ditch
cardboard arms and legs sticking out
this way and that
until the bulldozer shoves them
under and the dog in with them your wounded
dog clawing
its way up over the shifting bodies trying
to get home registration and name tags jingling
like a bellwether how
can we do this Jorie how can we keep
                                            it up are 
you saying you didn't
pull the trigger
you're not Mengele not me Jesus
what about
if you had to back over two kittens at the same
time one under
each of the rear wheels of the van
the left one
                      dead at once the other
one flopping around for a whole
                 a year
chasing it like you would a chicken Jorie
when you cut
his head off saying you
never did that it's crazy no
just these astonishing Buster
and you're trying 
to hold it
                hold back your
cursing the way
you used to pray crying out
be still
you little fuck hold still I'll
                                         kill you
scrambling about on your hands
and knees grabbing for a bloodslick leg
just trying
to hug the tiny bones up close
to you thinking my God
no that's not
                  me I never wore that shirt
in my life but look at the markers
Jorie there they
are so many generations scattered over the yard
there's no good soil left to put them 
in only
the hardpan and the roots 
of the elms
three dogs six cats and a couple 
                                         of wretched
starving raccoons who lost a food
fight with the dogs
                        rocks piled on the graves till I ran
out of rocks their
names (those who had names) etched on top
with a blunted magic marker
and Christ do
you think I never think about history about
                                               the teenage witchy
girls from 
Salem about Nam about
the ovens the Poles the Catholics the saints
on the wheel
                  the blacks
the long trains to Treblinka and the Norfolk
                                               and Southern
freighter that hurled
my son's body eight-tenths of a mile
down the tracks before
it could get itself stopped are you
telling me it's the same are
                                     you it's all 
the same gerbils and missing children and things that go
bump on the windshield 
                      feathers and bones
and party favors
scattered by the roadside
like sherds
of rice like the left-overs from somebody's
picnic come on Jorie 
don't squint say cheese tell us
how it was how it really 
felt when you bent to kiss your doggie in the coffin
the hairspray deodorant on his
                                        fur the polished
fangs painted
nails the anxious attendant
at your side adjusting and adjusting
                                             the veil
fearful you might disturb the ochre-
rouged flap
covering the hole where
                                   what's-his-name's brains
used to be no don't
tell me don't say anything at all Jorie Jorie please just shut your

                                             fucking mouth
and the next one that gets shot next week or the next do the digging
yourself don't hide him in a sack
either just toss him in naked and shovel the dirt
in his face and when
                               you hear
the dogtags clinking from room to room don't come crying to me take
your arms from around
me stop it Jorie there's no such thing as
you made it
all up the greenest pasture you
could find to lie down in better than Dallas better
than Forest Lawn
surrounded by the ghosts of little girls marching through the snow
in their torn
                        shoes dying babies
wrapped in scraps of paper and old men shuffling
to get tattooed
buried alive doing it for you Jorie for
you inching forward
                                     on your belly
to snuffle the fade photos

like a dog till you've broken
through to
the yellow powdered
of all the grief you can get your hands on crying choose
me me do me
take my picture cheese

James Lineberger