Elisabeth von Uhl

Digging Graves

Bodies are fragile. A universe wrapped
                 inside molecules inside particles
of magic, science, and a divine always

choked by a political doctrine: you have always
                 wanted new bodies; yours never
had enough beauty, enough resilience, enough white.

So now, you will wish for bleached perfection: bodies that never broke
                 and needed to heal, bodies that never
fought sadness, bodies that were never sold, bodies

that were never violated, bodies that never protest. But, you forget bodies
                 were birthed from lush suffering: never a thriving plant
in a planned garden. Both creations, an alloy of blood

and dirt were a genetic mutation — a violent DNA burgeon that took more
                 than six days; you were never mirrored in a single image before
a day of rest. Yet, you put knee on neck into a vein of breath,

with your revelry, your desire to be god with your full body weight:
                 with you wearing black gloves to protect from a shadow
that stains hands and dirt that clings under fingers’ nails.

The vein of your breath more valued, your silence more heard
                 as he pleaded for his “mama” as he saw past spines shattered
into fields. As you closed his gasp with your sauntered lean

on that stem in a garden of flawed roses: you were the thorn
                 with your roots deep in soil rarely raked,
rarely cultivated for fear of you being shit.


At once, we are strangers
— the memory of the wind
blowing through stark, golden sugar maples
on the side of a hill at my grandmother’s farm —
you will never know. I keep this locked,
a recollected pattern of neurons, hallowed,
reversed, and stripped of color, like a funnel
of sand. So, I dole out a speck for you,
a tangle of language, a piece of recognition,
my love, but you refuse with calloused
hands sliding over my thighs. And this
privacy of our sex, a rot of our fighting
are all a mess of wires you tinker with
in your velvet dark basement leaving us
like two suicide bombers about to embark
on immortality. But what of this shroud of place
when you can gather fear like leaves
meant for a pile in autumn? Like the eleven
years it took to build the four-story mosque
down the street? Like the open hydrant’s water
that cascades into the pit of the lushest tree on the block?
A love letter written on the back of a tossed
envelope now litter on the street? Like the old recluse
who only leaves her house at 2:30 am
to buy tomato soup at that late-night bodega
down the street from us? Or the azalea bush
that never really bloomed this past spring?
These narratives are sticky like blood.
So, now, with eyes still fine from sleep,
I awake and look to you and ask “do you grieve
that this will never be again?”

Elisabeth von Uhl‘s work has been published in Lunch Ticket, The Cortland Review, SHIFT, Cream City Review, and other journals. Her chapbook, Ocean Sea, which was a semi-finalist in the Black Lawrence Press Chapbook Contest, has been published by Finishing Line Press. Please go to www.elisabethvonuhl.com for more information.