‘Society has no address,’ he said
‘and so we leave our dead letters everywhere’.
Plath honed her body to Egyptian stillnesses
and her blacks crackle and drag.
Browning asks: ‘who fished the murex up?’
The Sybil scatters her green leaves in the dust.

One day they pulled a murdered whore from the Tiber
and Caravaggio
painted her. Imagine
boathooks drawing in the body,
the smell of the corpse
several days in the water;
imagine wet hair weed in the bottom of the boat.
No one cared for her
but the passionate Caravaggio
who loved her for dying in pain, violently, with no one looking.

What we think, we touch.
I think of the painter’s hands, their tenderness, their cold giving
exact ash, lip-ash, ash on the tongue
and the transfigured suffering
of that sex-shelled, tide-gnawed girl
from trash to Madonna in the art
which brushes against us with a calling loveliness
as we move back to society

unable even to withdraw our hands from clear water
without implicating ripples.

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