Table of |
Anterooms of Death
When I was a child, I saw a forehead
smudged with ash, crossed my ribcage,
stole cinders from my father's smelly pipe.
The Catholics jumping rope in the road explicated
Dust to dust. I didn't dare cross myself.
Dear ash, you're mellower than live coals.
You are my mother, my father sifted
through muslin dreams, ghosts of sputtering fires,
earthy flesh of chestnuts in foil, their burnt skin.
These children can't remember what they loved--
sesame from auntie's bag. Figures scratched in dirt look odd,
with torsos hemmed by stiffened hands and feet.
At dusk some hurl cement at carrion birds
while others bind their ears with scarves.
It might be bath day in the trough. It might be
bye bye, high-smelling winter tent.
A Syrian describes his chill basement,
medicine for the pancreas. Without, his dearest dies.
Bombs are louder than morning calls to prayer.
The signal drifts and fades.
Some streets don't wish to wake.
Old men will not hide, they play backgammon
in cafés. If a shell ends them, well,
I've lived. Birthdays don't announce themselves
and no point cooking sweets for Eid.
In alleys doctors sleep, this world finally destroyed.
Do they suffer even in their graves, can they try
the pleasures of the faithful, lamb with yogurt, new-picked mint,
this foretaste of a thousand and one beginnings daubed with ash?
The string between us quivers, umbilicus
we only dreamed was cut. Between, an ache,
pulsing blood, meat and bone of a snared bird.
Both sun and moon take the high way;
when the traveler in Firenze wraps your wrist
in colored string, when the old piazza fountain
nets the humid mass of your hair, why is the moon
orange, why does it rival the sun--
we know the string is bound to fray.
© Patricia Carragon: Morning Shadows
Cold Spring by Train
Workshops and cafes are shut,
geese scumbling dry fields.
Breakneck Ridge is broken teeth;
Cold Spring's hammered by wind
while the day snails behind wish.
In this low stretch of sky,
the inner planets seem very near
and pallid in milk-light, the Great Bear.
At every station I've wanted to run,
den under the statue of the old soldier,
taste local honey by a fever spoon.
With every mile, I've jettisoned
some strand of hair or cell of skin.
A pile of rags: an incurious fox
crosses the tracks with a bloody mouth.
Cold Spring without its human guise,
a wandering herd of stone.
Inhabitants must be somewhere
beyond their frowsy artifacts.
hunching by coal stoves.
Outhouses, enamel basins,
spiny gables, Depression glass.
The foundry dark and quiet as--
but don't say it, even you don't
want to hear that word.
I wonder how many dreams molt
where a papery slice of lady cake
is coffined in with string.
Ever in pursuit of other lives--
those muddy boots on a porch,
sleeping frogs in Margaret's Stream,
a woman hammering chains from gold,
her neck in the soft light bared.