at Length

The Night Grove

—Kerri Webster

The torturer wants to know how one minute blood, one minute
snow. She
wants the windows
closed. The draft. Light breaks
across his back.

She lets the torturer put his head in her hands.

Tells him about Flanders, the speaking

Where snow falls
in the taxonomy of the greater and lesser

desires: it falls on the taxonomy. On the money
and on the torso. On the fur.

She tells the torturer:
first, for practice, they bayonetted
straw men.
Missing their villages, winter
And then the soft flesh of stomachs
attached to bodies
tied to trees.
He says, that is a very
ancient story.
She says, one day you will be an old man
but now you are beautiful.

She says, Simon Peter stirred the fire. There
in his animal body.
He says, Yes. Breath milk-warm
on her neck.

She says, maybe this weekend
we could flay the flesh from your back.

When she takes him inside
and through her body, what
is expiated? Nothing
is expiated.
After, still shuddering, he
says: the field is broken
glass which I
myself broke and now
must walk through. She
stirs the soup.

She tells him of the famous horse.
He says: I was the horse and I
was his rider. She says:
and you were the body
quartered behind.

She says, some boy’s on the news
shot a swan.

Maybe you could start a book club
where you read about faith systems.
He stacks coins
on her belly until difficult
for both of them to breathe.

Gesthemene was more than a garden, she
says. People that night
dreamt you. He
is weeping again but also
erect again.

She says, the dead swan. Their
daddy’s rifle. Wings
eight feet wide.

“The way fear looks like anger in the animal’s dark eye”
is one way to narrativize the universe.
Go ahead, he says.
Why not.

She says, you could start a support group
where horses ride over your bodies.
Those who survive
get to attend the next meeting.

She twirls the hair on his stomach.
The way freezing persons recollect the snow is
they’re sitting in the motherfucking snow, the snow

is in their mouths and their eyes
are sealed by crystals.
What, then, of outliving?
He tells her: you’re grasping.
When pain breaks the body, all the mouth makes
are sounds.
She says, in the Book of Phonemes
no one loves you.

All summer fictive or lesser
realities kept entering—grove

inside the grove, seascape, new

planet just past the
horizon, resting

Poppies are the flower of forgetting;
see the old men outside the grocery store
pin one in his lapel.

She says, I want to hold those boys
close, and then
I want to shatter their finger bones.
See, he says?














Kerri Webster is the author of Grand & Arsenal (Iowa, 2012) and We Do Not Eat Our Hearts Alone (Georgia, 2005). The recipient of a Whiting Award, she has taught in the MFA programs at Washington University in St. Louis and Boise State University.

Her poem “Atomic Clock” also appeared in At Length. You can read it here.