by Mark Doty

Mark Doty

Peter died in a paper tiara cut from a book of princess paper dolls; he loved
royalty, sashes

and jewels. I don’t know,
he said, when he woke in the hospice, I was watching the Bette Davis film

on Channel 57 and then— At the wake, the tension broke when someone

the casket closed because
he was in there in a big
wig and heels, and someone said,

You know he’s always late,
he probably isn’t here yet— he’s still fixing his makeup.

And someone said he asked for it.
Asked for it—
when all he did was go down

into the salt tide
of wanting as much as he wanted, giving himself over so drunk

or stoned it almost didn’t matter who, though they were beautiful, stampeding
into him in the simple,

ravishing music of their hurry.
I think heaven is perfect stasis poised over the realms of desire,

where dreaming and waking men lie on the grass while wet horses roam
among them, huge fragments

of the music we die into
in the body’s paradise.
Sometimes we wake not knowing

how we came to lie here,
or who has crowned us with these temporary, precious stones. And given

the world’s perfectly turned shoulders, the deep hollows blued by longing,
given the irreplaceable silk

of horses rippling in orchards, fruit thundering and chiming down, given the
ordinary marvels of form

and gravity, what could he do, what could any of us ever do but ask for it?

Bethlehem in Broad Daylight

Last updated December 21, 2022