When a plane crashed into the World Trade Center, a woman
with red hair was standing on a building getting ready
to crash into the pavement from seven stories up.
She was just another death that day, and her suicide note
was a wing of flame bursting from the North Tower.
As a pair of lungs opens for the first time, another door closes
on the face of an undocumented immigrant
who was taught that human beings themselves can be crimes.
When Polaris shines its eyes directly down on earth,
another light somewhere else is going out
in the living room of a family that considers togetherness
to be eating frozen dinners in separate rooms of the house.
While you were busy throwing left hooks in Wii boxing,
a Guantanamo Bay detainee is being left hooked to the wall
dressed in nothing but shackles and his slowly
smearing sense of dignity and self-respect.
As the sky is caking on clouds like concealer, a teenage girl
in Chicago is selling her body to afford lipstick
to impress men who want to slice her shadow like kite strings
so they can be the only thing that follows her home.
While you were sleeping, someone else is dying,
and the explosions of the last stars behind their eyes
echo in your dreams like REM grenades.
Whenever a bride picks out her wedding dress,
a divorced couple kisses in front of their child
just to keep the secret hidden for one more night.
Seconds after you were born, someone somewhere in the universe
wished they hadn’t been.
because this is what you do. get up.
blame the liquor for the heaviness. call in late
to work. go to the couch because the bed
is too empty. watch people scream about love
on Jerry Springer. count the ways
it could be worse. it could be last week
when the missing got so big
you wrote him a letter
and sent it. it could be yesterday, no work
to go to, whole day looming.
it could be last month
or the month before, when you still
thought maybe. still carried plans
around with you like talismans.
you could have kissed him last night.
could have gone home with him, given in,
cried after, softly, face to the wall, his heavy arm
around you, hand on your stomach, rubbing.
shower. remember your body. water
hotter than you can stand. sit
on the shower floor. the word
devastated ringing the tub. buildings
collapsed into themselves. ribs
caving toward the spine. recite
the strongest poem you know. a spell
against the lonely that gets you
in crowds and on three hours’ sleep.
wonder where the gods are now.
get up. because death is not
an alternative. because this is what you do.
air like soup, move. door, hallway, room.
pants, socks, shoes. sweater. coat. cold.
wish you were a bird. remember you
are not you, now. you are you
a year from now. how does that
woman walk? she is not sick or sad.
doesn’t even remember today.
has been to Europe. what song
is she humming? now. right now.
but my thoughts are heavier.
I practice my tai chi forms in the dark in my school’s drama room.
Sure hand, and sure arm, with steady aim
ensnare this body, that has forgotten all but shivering.
Boy whose name escapes me like long lost secrets,
let me give you a summary of who I think myself to be:
my name is a feeling: anonymous, without source,
as are the ripples that flee the unseen catalyst.
I am the lover of the sensual things, and I have come
as you have called me,
responding in kind to your language of hoarse sounds
and exhausted murmurs.
The others who came unto me like landslide, boulder fall,
sought to bury me beneath them with force,
and yet you come with hands to pry the stones free
searching for survivors beneath what has entombed most of me.
I am the strange thing, the weird sister of the forest,
with tangled mane and slivered tongue,
and where my fangs have struck the unkind hand,
yours I kiss with the imperceptible brushing of my lips.
For you, who have left me make my home
in the hollow of your curving body,
have earned in turn through giving.
For you, temporary solace,
have made merciful what was once unforgiving.
All love I make to you by refraining from harsh touch;
all love I bestow onto your sleeping body
by allowing sleep to slaughter me.
All suspicion of the coming pain is wiped away
and extinguished is the agony of remembrance:
so I grant you witness to my weakness
and bare the innocent expressions of my anonymity in repose.
~ Raymond Carver, Where I’m Calling From
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