It is first like the vast tearing of earth
(in the midst of thunder, your knees
give way, your spine folds into itself,
you tremble, you fall)
but fits neatly down your throat
like hemlock's bitter swallow. Tell me
the dead weight of your arms,
the slow burn of your crippled lungs
You could not have known it would be so.
The hot breath of a misplaced night is
quiet in your ears and
a scream silent through your teeth
when stale smoke and ash have slithered
lukewarm under your tongue.
You are motionless,
a half-consciousness feigning sleep -
Yet I know
the ground’s shuddering heartbeat could
easily overwhelm your own, if that raging hunger,
that fervent rhythm of your fierce hope
only stuttered, only faltered ...
Show me the length of your brittle neck,
the faded shadows of new scars
where they meet the sun. Let me unearth
the crumbling chalk of your fingers
and hold them, hold them
if you could dream,
you'd someday understand
the promise of a gentle light.
Then, like stars and kisses
and heavy coins,
these tears would slip at last
to soothe your battered eyelids.