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The Story

The woman came home to find her husband and children sitting around the table
as they'd done so many nights, the lamp on the sideboard casting its usual glow
over the rough wood, some flowers the children had picked in a blue vase,
the youngest daughter's drawing of a horse tacked beside the window
with its burlap drape. They sat around the table with their severed heads set before them
on the woven placemats, and each one's arms had been lifted so the hands
rested on top of the hair, thick hair of her husband she'd wrapped around
her fingers, fine hair of her two daughters, and the baby's soft, barely visible wisps
over the small skull the baby's hands were tiny, they'd had to nail them in place,

and this is where I begin to hate the man who told the story, who made me see
not just their deaths but the soldiers standing around afterwards, the arc
of the hammer as it comes down and drives in what I now can't forget;
the best I can do is to think of Christ, so I can somehow bear the nails,
so I can carry them to you, and maybe I'm no better than the soldiers to do that.
I'm asking you to walk into your own house, to see a child's head
bent over her homework as she scissors pictures from a magazine,
the bright or dark hair she brushes impatiently out of her eyes.
I don't know why I need to say this, or what good or evil it does. I want

the old, acceptable story of suffering, the cross become icon, holy blood
in the chalice. I want not to know what I know as I turn back to my life,
my friends who love me, as I set the table with candles and glasses for wine
and later put my hands in my lover's hair; he enters me, we fall together
onto the bed, he bites my nipples as hard as I can stand it and then harder,
and still it's pleasure I feel, we are given this, too; I tell it to myself over
and over as we make love like animals deep in the forest, far from any village,
caring nothing for the world, ravenous for each other, crying out
while workmen slowly hack a road toward us, while the machines come on.

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