The crimson lake that laps her cheek,
her scarlet kiss, her madder hair
once singed the virgin martyr page
but taper down at last to this:
Red language, words incarnadine;
black scrawl in sifted ash.

When I have fears that I may cease
to speak before my sullen sun
and garner dark at length in day,
then on the shore I stand at night
and hear the empty rollers break,
black wash against the stones.

Words weigh more than words can bear.
No props, no guys, no stays can save
this solid world from solid fall.
Too dense dead stuff; these words, this love:
the rouge on corpses, whited graves,
black shards of broken glass.

Articles by Joseph Bottum

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