Carnal Knowledge

I watched him, silent, beside me, take
the rotten earth into his mouth,
and, sober, with little shame, chew . . .
In that altar between the gums of his teeth and his
teeth, he worked the many tired leaves
of it, downed, until it went ghost, not a thing
at all really, or only liquid now: earth
streaming from his lips, redone in bright
terrible braids, pairs of them, and spat
into a jar that could’ve been like prayer itself:
how faith can be that one container, bare-breasted,
which holds. I watched him, growing out
to the heat of it, like a root. And though I know
this has something to do with power, I ignore it,
for once being the thing that only looks at
eyes open, mouth ready, pregnant with the burn.
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Rickey Laurentiis
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