low voices

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Sequestered Writing
Carolyn Forché

Horses were turned loose in the child’s sorrow. Black and roan, cantering through snow.

The way light fills the hand with light, November with graves, infancy with white.

White. Given lilacs, lilacs disappear. Then low voices rising in walls.

The way they withdrew from the child’s body and spoke as if it were not there.

What ghost comes to the bedside whispering You?

— With its no one without its I

A dwarf ghost? A closet of empty clothes?

Ours was a ghost who stole household goods. Nothing anyone would miss.

Supper plates. Apples. Barbed wire behind the house.

At the end of the hall, it sleepwalks into a mirror wearing mother’s robe.

A bedsheet lifts from the bed and hovers. Face with no face. Come here.

The bookcase knows, and also the darkness of books. Long passages into,

Endless histories toward, sleeping pages about. Why else toss gloves into a grave?

A language that once sent ravens through firs. The open world from which it came.

Words holding the scent of an asylum fifty years. It is fifty years, then.

The child hears from within: Come here and know, below

And unbeknownst to us, what these fields had been.

shut his heaven

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Curfew
Carolyn Forché
The curfew was as long as anyone could remember
Certainty’s tent was pulled from its little stakes
It was better not to speak any language
There was a man cloaked in doves, there was chandelier music
The city, translucent, shattered but did not disappear
At the hour between the no longer and the still to come
The child asked if the bones in the wall
Belonged to the lights in the tunnel
Yes, I said, and the stars nailed shut his heaven

Photo by adore chang on Unsplash

 

“your own hands are lying”

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Taking Off My Clothes
Carolyn Forché
I take off my shirt, I show you.
I shaved the hair out under my arms.
I roll up my pants, I scraped off the hair
on my legs with a knife, getting white.

My hair is the color of chopped maples.
My eyes dark as beans cooked in the south.
(Coal fields in the moon on torn-up hills)

Skin polished as a Ming bowl
showing its blood cracks, its age, I have hundreds
of names for the snow, for this, all of them quiet.

In the night I come to you and it seems a shame
to waste my deepest shudders on a wall of a man.

You recognize strangers,
think you lived through destruction.
You can’t explain this night, my face, your memory.

You want to know what I know?
Your own hands are lying.