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Halo is Hung Around Them

ISSUE:  Summer 1995

Halo is there to protect them—the saints—
whose names were nailed onto the world
like so many coat hooks.

In the first grade coat room, I threw my coat on the floor. A tangerine
in my hand, my books balanced on my head,

I walked backwards—almost the length of the room—
coatless and daring.

When the books fell, I stacked them up
to stand on, so that I could reach the coat hook
with my tongue, before the bell rang.

I was trying to understand
the people who set the air on fire.
I wanted to run my thumb along their eyebrows.
I wanted to lean my head
against the shadows on their necks.

Their halo is a coat I can’t unbutton.
But their warmth has a taste
like chalk, like cold brass,
and a scent like tangerines,
like ink closed in on itself, a storage of faiths,
modern wonders that slumber inside chapters
schematized to aid the memories
of wing weld, fuselage, propeller; of pupil, iris, retina;
of the inverted print of light, of flight.


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