Letter from the Church of the Broken Body

Jay Deshpande

            You know the way the canyon picks up light—
            not all at once, but with a speed the dust
            can only call swelling: first one trough,
            then another, day leeching into each thing
            separately, like how the eye falls on cells
            of an overripe persimmon, knowing where
            the thumb can feel that give and lush
            before the knife can have its way. Sorrow
            follows each of us since June. The fowl
            move around the feed like obsessives,
            like believers in the constant fear
            of being touched. When we go to gather
            spices from the fields now, we tug at the plants
            with hungry gloves. Skyward, the horizon
            each day makes shoulders as though
            someone said our village will never
            be loved again, and the air complied.
            It is colder, but in the crackle of ozone
            we think our noses work better. Just
            yesterday, Timothy awoke and told
            the strangest thing: how at vespers he raised
            his eyes, looking out the window, and saw
            coming from the face of every denizen
            these blue spirits, smokelike and lissome,
            billowing out from the eyes, the mouth,
            the nose, the ears, every gap in the flesh
            that would let them. They seemed to thrill
            on air, but none of the people noticed
            what rose and tangled. After telling us
            Timothy became very ill, and we had
            to remove several of his limbs for fear
            of his added recalcitrance. The work
            was stiff and brutal, but these are such days
            when we must act according to laws and live
            often outside ourselves. Timothy understands
            our ways, as you do, too. You know we each
            keep a secret inside our flesh, it weathers
            with the darker seasons, and we wait
            for the moment when the body has weakened—
            that sign its great love can be taken from us.
            The nights may be cooler, but in afternoon
            no parishioner speaks of pain any longer,
            every one hears a sound like rain
            clarifying her prayers, seeding his mind
            with new heat, great fervor, a readiness.