Juliana Daugherty

Out of my mouth God said, be less.

I looked at my hands, which were not my hands.                    
I looked at myself. It was someone else.

My heart had been one hard black syllable

Then it was not mine,
so it was joy.

My spirit was the spirit of flies
coming upon a death.

The death was mine.
It was all I kept.

God was a ringing in my ears
like a bell strung up from a grave.

Outside the body it was August in full chorus.
I didn't notice. I thought I could diminish

into the rapture of elements.
I thought I could be empty of desire.

Burning is what light becomes
when you let it touch you.

I was a living thing ablaze
& thought I was the fire.




Writing this poem was an attempt to get at the experience of having one's self consumed by some kind of ardor. In the poem, religion happens to be the particular vehicle. In my life, it's been other things. But all forms of ardor seem to me to be essentially the same—equally miraculous; equally destructive. It's a space I keep trying to write into, and out of, over and over again.