Forgive Me, Stranger

SHRIVE me? Can it be Tuesday now?
Can I be touched, washed, blessed, made whole?
Stayed so on Wednesday? Sir, I fear
Who touches me feels acid; so beware.
And I am cold, sir, also; bitter cold.
You cannot come near if I say you can’t,
And you are not the child I put aside;
How can you touch me? In this garden
Are rocks and sand with roses, and beyond it
Spit and nails and vinegar and nothing.
Can you drink night? That gravel pit of stars,
They’d cut and choke you. Better, vinegar
Or even nails and spit; best of all, nothing.
Or could you if my thought believed you could?
No, I will not eat this blackness for you,
For I am cold enough. Go shrive yourself,
And I will lay one hand upon the other
To find if doubled zero makes warm wealth,
Or swallowing my tears turns salt to wine.
I’d heard the child was here who’d comfort me,
Having some wisdom about sleep and singing
Which I’ve forgot; but you are old and strange,
And no more help to me than I to you.
Forgive me, stranger; and — I’ll — Oh! my hands!