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from Quarantine

ISSUE:  Winter 2005

Though I rarely slept I never missed sleep
I had learned to move as little as necessary
to work without effort to watch my wife
and son cry he cried in his sleep
my wife never spoke to me except to say
she would kill me but she never raised a hand
she did not leave I wanted her to leave
but I never needed more sleep until I saw
the bodies on fire in the river for days I saw
them blue and orange against a black sky
they would be black in the day without color
and the birds and the ants would settle on
settle into them until they were only ash
the river having kept them from burning
I was not sad at seeing them I knew I would
be a body burning blue in the river orange
to black this is not why I could not sleep
and only when the bodies stopped did it stop
the strain of such alertness then I slept


I sought the dark in order
to dazzle my life a horizon
line on the plains I cleared
my life of closeness nor did
the trees or stones remain
any longer in their places


I was so much at the river I do not know
when the death entered me or how
the smoke from the bodies fell on me
men fell on me boys fell was wet
some nights with the smell the smoke
was after I did not go into the river after
the bodies saw no one after the bodies
no one touched me or tried to break
no one touched me at the river


No one touched me at the river
but still I am falling I have fallen
into so much and still I am falling


So much attention
required by dying
I wish I had been
the first among us
then I would not be
charged with tying
everything together
I am not the only
person with a memory
who wants to be spared
a memory this story


If I could burrow into the dirt
beneath my back I would fracture
the earth to return and forget
the river and the nights I already have
forgotten what I have done portioned
into parcels memories I have lost
and now that I cannot see my thoughts
and movements are based on smell
the scent of death is black the sores
are black my wife’s skin my son’s
dry in the air now that there is no sweat
to keep their bodies which shivered in their heat
cold when I touched them dragged them
by the feet into this field they were cold
like my own hands and face are
they are dead and though I call myself dead
I have not died the words still move across
my face everything right now in the telling


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