Mr. Silver owned a steel plant
and manipulated auras on the outskirts
of Detroit: a faith healer.
Perhaps he could heal
mine. Through subdivisions trim and brown
as bouillon cubes, defoliated zones,
where heavy machinery depreciated, I took my heart.
The waiting room contained a cloudy sky
made finite in linoleum,
a kind of American marble.
Whatever lured me here?
A month ago I’d plunged into a double-dark nothing
like sleep since sleep gives dividends
of dream, free wake-ups. Coming to,
my body less tractable
than a grocery bag of sand,
I knew I’d nearly made the one-stop shopping trip
I’d heard so much about.
Doctors pursued the elusive
verdict, their spooky machines
awhirr with purpose. Their glowing dyes
showed fiery tributaries ribboning
my heart: arabesques of argon violet
crosshatched in patterns so complex
they seemed quite random. It would take some faith
to unravel all that
bafflement! Was it heretical
to expect things from this
world? To want to live
forever in the cells’ jewel glut, the body opulent,
a squirming heaven in each fist?
Mr. Silver spoke first of psychics with the power
to bend metal, supernormally
light lamps two miles away,
draw like famous artists, and speed
the growth of seeds. Though he could do none of these,
I sensed a Yankee optimism
when he mentioned his ability to diagnose and treat
disease. “‘Never mind preachers
finding devils under everybody’s skin.
Some things are beyond our knowing.
It’s important to believe.’’ When I agreed
he seemed relieved. “All right, sports fans,
let’s see if these success stories go beyond
conjecture,” he said. I was to close my eyes
and meditate on something pleasant
while he mediated over me.
Though I tried to snag my mind on sweetness,
I kept thinking
this is America. And I hadn’t told anyone
where I was going.
He put his hands around my neck and squeezed.
Each cell got busy, singing
the dawnsong of its name;
my body suddenly felt worth its weight
in light, as if I held the sky
above an earthquake—the magenta glow
made by electric fields and shifting
plates—inside each artery and vein.
After thirty minutes he backed off
to give the news. “It’s true, you have a cardiac
screw loose. But I’ll tell you what
to do. Smile. Meditate
like you did tonight. Remember
you don’t have to kiss anybody’s fanny.
You’re going to be all right.”
By way of farewell, blessing, or epiphany,
he feelingly recited Kipling’s “If.”
Then his flashlight led me through a maze
of cold rolled metal, polychromed partitions.
Outside, the night was laced with bright fillips
of pidgin English: Glassbenders,
in bins among transformers, standing
burners, the din and smell of lightning,
formed these Lifesavers and double helices of neon,
an old-fashioned, hard to stack, quickly cracking
stuff. They vacuumed each tube of impurities, primed
the inside with hot-colored phosphor, painted
the spaces between letters black. They burned
themselves welding adrenaline messages
into night: ‘La Chambre: Exotic
Dancers,”’ “Warsaw Foot-Long.” “Elijah’s
Hellenic Den” looked the most respectable.
When I opened the door, a waiter raised a platter
of flames. ““Opa!’’ the patrons roared
as if their lungs were made of silk
wrapped round a shout.
Still hoping for signs and wonders,
I thought it might mean Health or Life, an omen
of survival. “It’s just something we say.
It means like olé. It don’t mean
nothing,” the waiter told me.
The appetizers were dark and shiny; the wine local,
from grapes grown in the Motor
City, going by its nose of Pennzoil and Prestone.
A dubious sustenance. Yet I swallowed it
like gospel that somehow did me good.
I was lucky, then,
under the enormous torque
of midwest sky, to find my Nova
in the lot, to drive past emblems
galvanizing night—the golden arches,
spirals, labyrinths, and flags; the logos
placed like halos
above service stations; the freeway’s glowing
dot and dash—a path
of crumbs to follow home.