8.21.2015

If Anyone Thirsts

I.
In the stillness between us, your eyes
had turned to dust bowls, fixed on me
with pleading heavier than a scream,

and my cottonball tongue,
four weeks dry and sitting on my teeth like
leaded sand, had no answer.

My hand pressing at the darkened window
like burnt wrinkled sackcloth, fingers
shriveled and ashen,
my eyelids leaking black mud
and silt.

My exhale—I have nothing, I have
nothing—leaving only dust,
ghost tracings falling silent from
the cold glass.

II.
For years I lived from one jar.
It wore lightning-bolt fractures all
over, uneven edges that caught
at my fingernails as I stretched out,

waited for mercy to pour its
measure down every seven days,
and drank sparingly.
I was a mess of cracks and caverns,

but it sewed me up so slowly
I didn’t notice, a stone ridge
laid down by patient rivers,
unaware of my own growing.

The years went by. It was
enough, I thought.

III.
Someone had torn down the wall
that kept me from knowing you:
suddenly I saw you, withering
silently there, and the gaps in my jar
had multiplied so it lay in pieces like
dead autumn leaves around us and

your little mouth was empty,
your tiny throat bone-dry.

Climbing over the rubble to you
I would have torn myself open,
crushed my own heart and wrung out
my lungs for a trace of water

if it meant that you could
drink—but I was parched as
dusty brick, sun-baked
to the core.

We sat in stillness, waiting.
Something pounded at the door.

IV.
That insistent drumming, getting
louder all the time, and the low growls
rattling the windowpane left me
shaking, both arms shivering

as I pushed the door wide and
fell headfirst into a thunderstorm.
The shock surged through me as surely
as if I'd been struck, rain and relief
streaming into my hair and down my neck

and I gasped and gasped until
water pulsed out with every breath
and life had filled me up and
overflowed,

dripping into my ears and out my mouth,
pulling me trembling to my feet,
yearning to give, to give,
to give—

and it turned my face, and I
caught the heavens in my hands,
and I came running
back to you.

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