9.04.2014

Tar

When I was born into night's darkness,
I came with my own bucket
of tar, gleaming thickly black and
brimming full to the edges, all
for me, all my own.

The tar was smooth on my tiny fingers
and richly warm in my mouth, so
I loved it at the start, though it
dried heavy and permanently deep;
I decorated myself with layers of the stuff,
savoring the little thrill
of its slow trickling and subtle warmth
in the moments before it
sank into my skin and crusted over,
turning me into a shadow
among shadows.

The first time I saw the glow creeping
at the edges of the city
I screamed and coughed up terror
for days. I'd felt it then:
the spark's inevitability,
the readiness of the whole blackened mass
to ignite and burn itself—and me,
all painted over with death's
hot, grasping hands—into oblivion.
I huddled back into the dark,
choking on crusty sobs and hating light
with every dried-up, thirsty bone
in my body.

Rain fell every now and then
and dripped off me, clear,
inking the tar with midnight blossoms
but slipping straight across the thick shell.
Nothing could wash me.
I broke my wrists trying
to crack them open against the cement step
of an abandoned building,
felt wet blood slippery on my skin
—for one merciful second it seemed almost
to melt the tar from within—
until it dried, too, more
stinking fuel waiting to burn.

As I grew taller, I shook to realize
my everlasting night was one immense
shadow, cast by an immeasurable
and swift-advancing morning.
Already half the city's streets were lit,
stripped naked in the harsh glare
of the imminent sunrise and
its inexorable draw.

Now, perhaps, you know
the rest of the story. Perhaps you, yourself,
have seen exactly how much blood
it takes to dissolve tar,
and can tell me how he silently took
the bucket from your heavy hands
on his way to the city square.
Perhaps you will always remember
the blazing cobblestones and
the shape of his blackened silhouette
as he met the fire:

knees bowed low and face set forward,
while the flames leaped into the sky,
licking up every trace
of tar they found, and leaving you
untouched, trembling,
whole.
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