The Civilian Casualties
When the taps ran blood
she set her books on fire –
then she was in a white place
where everyone lied.
Words, words, words:
smoke puffed out from mouths,
stick figures of her name
in riot on the forms.
The fat door hides the rules
under its mattress pad.
A conference room is calm.
If you promise, they said,
and told me in the silence
after they put her back,
Don’t listen – everything
she tells you is a lie.
In snow, all tracks
–animal and human—
speak to one another,
a long conversation that keeps breaking off
then starting up again.
I want to read those pages
instead of the kind
made of human words.
I want to write in the language of those
who have been to that place before me.
She’s combed his neckties out of her hair
and torn out the tongues of his shoes.
She’s poured his ashes out of their urn
and into his humidor. For the very last time,
she’s scrubbed the floor around the toilet.
She hates him even more for dying.
Swifts turn in the heights of the air;
higher still turn the invisible stars.
When day withdraws to the ends of the earth
their fires shine on a dark expanse of sand.
We live in a world of motion and distance.
The heart flies from tree to bird,
from bird to distant star,
from star to love; and love grows
in the quiet house, turning and working,
servant of thought, a lamp held in one hand.