The Word

I’ve lived the word, by
the word, taken it to heart,
put this old heart to test
the line. Not so hard
when you could hear it crack the safe
often enough, for a click
of love, rush of air,
by will or willfulness, I can’t say.

Maybe there’s no difference
but in degree, this wanting
that measures out need. I’ve crossed
the line, lined crosses up
like roads I have to be lost
to, drawn to the wick, naked
bulb of low lives flickering red
at the corner of my eyes.

I’ve given my self up
to the word made flesh, wine
as water, two vices forward,
no hold back, learned what it means
to be lighter, adrift, like fire,
this slow reveal of ash
when I burnt off my years,
all I built with my hands.

I’ve become who I’m capable
of, a shadow writ large
over a heart now unlocked, unhinged.
But these lines have no leverage
to forgive, redeem, add nothing
to the knowledge I’m a stranger,
a ghost, to those I love. I’ve kept
the word, but not outlived its sentence.

by Felix Cheong
from Sudden in Youth: New and Selected Poems (2009)