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Robert Campbell

Tammy Faye Bakker in My Bathroom

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The woman in my bathtub
is washing off her makeup.
She's left the kitchen faucet on,
four pots of water boiling
on the stove, the television
purring like the seashore.

Her eyeliner dyes the water
blue as India ink. She sits there
for what seems like years,
then plods into the living room
stark-naked, streaked blue,
and says, Jesus loves you.

I'm not listening to her, really,
because she looks like such
a natural beauty, pretty
as a limestone wedge
jutting out of the earth,
washed clean by the storm.


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"We must separate the dreaming
from the lucid," she cried, snatching
a plum from its branch. "Split
the pit. Burn one side, and eat
the other." Everyone lived
on the island then, before
the Pronouncement of Aquatic
Reflexivity. "Thereafter, watery
shall be their grasses; their walk
unending, without rock or stone
or sand or earth in any form;
their dance, drowning;
their beards, frosted with salt;
their sky, a bone-white shore."
But because each one ate up
the wrong side, and burned the right,
they were together doomed in half.
And that is why we dream each night
of horns and hooves and albacore,
of chariots dragging the ocean floor.


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Our Father, our Father who art
a lyric, the sound of a lyric
Five buzzards bend the breeze.
clean and bright, whose yellow calluses
walk each fret to counter-melody:
pause now. Stretch now. Bend taut
nickel over the bridge. It's hard—
¾ of a river is water, ¾ of a human voice—
oh, it's hard to bend. The back cracks.
You don't know the tune, no, no one sings
looking at their feet. Heelspurs, larkspurs.
A feral cat steps lightly, gargling notes
to its naked young. Who sings? What disasters
Hold your ear to an open grave.
we keep wrapped up in skin. The birds
are crying. It's curtains, it's feathers, a pale
embellished gown. Bend to witness spirit
breaking down. God bakes a hard bread
A valley, like a life, is negative space.
and lends out no knife but flesh, scrawny,
full of holes. Mine a tunnel in the mountain,
worm it through, and everything gives,
just like a life. The sky picks up a shovel
One and-a two and-a three and-a four
with which to beat her children blind,
one lick for every tufted leg of a wooly worm
on a dogwood tree in October. Pat-pat-
drum-drum-pat. Flora, fauna, dancing bacteria.
The devil's shopping list is long.
Never graceful, ugly in tallness, we bend like dry wood,
splintering as we go, releasing dust in coughing fits.

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