If Silence Had Its Say
It would draw a blank and let the wind fill it in
with the shadow of a face, gone by night,
boarded-up houses and long evicted voices
blown under bridges.
It would say remember when,
if I could do it all over again, end
over end, bite your lip, your tongue,
bullet and dust, hold your bones
and wait for the change of hands.
It would say here is history
swept under the rugs, in the gutter, smoke from the mouths
of men huddled around a fire, a small locket tossed
in the garbage, and the escape through a back alley.
It would say walk do not run,
lay low and do as told, remember to hold
your breath passing through tunnels, exhale only
when you see light, and sit still,
this is not the time.
It would say remember, the I is silent,
a disclaimer, the dead language of a stone
you cannot carry or pronounce correctly,
the line drawn between silence and keeping quiet,
between the have not’s, have been’s, what if’s,
It would say take it from me,
take the estuary in my ear, the blindfold of my body,
the road that goes anywhere but here, and take my hand.
It would say look to the hills, their jagged lime,
the past emerging from rock. Listen closely to the why
of this hungry earth, the epigram of the first unspoken word.
Find the O of its vortex, the point where the world slips
from the tip of your tongue, the point where you can touch
time’s cold blood. Then stop. Repeat. Revise.
and tell no one.
The footpath winds off the Euphrates,
a deserted passage that would be solitude
if not for the ripple of safflower and thistle
running off to the side like an ecstatic fever.
A high pitched swell of vermillion flame,
bending to the hush and lull of the wind,
like the pendulum of a mother’s heartbeat
leaning, back and forth, ever so slightly,
musty aroma of old souls, itch of yellow dust,
opening under the bluest bright overhead,
long elysian stems bowing, clinging,
intertwined, braided along the roadside,
where a bomb breaks daylight like bread.
Our heaven is a box of wet matches.
A stairwell of blue flames, the storage door beneath,
where we hid as kids counting footsteps.
It is a ruined country that rises from the sea
where the houses we grew up in, their sunken roofs—
find crows perched on the eaves like small fugitives of silence.
The oracles come out to guide us with music in their eyes.
They show us their hands and tell us
that eternity is just the art of counting backwards.
In the beginning, the moon’s blistered eye,
red and full, cast treetops in silver,
filled the breasts of women with milk,
moistened the mouths of the hungry with sleep.
The dead looked on from the moon’s craters.
Their obsidian eyes pulled the earth’s axis toward them
for a better view.
Every now and again, the dead would call down to their children.
The trees would hum in the moon’s wind, telling stories
and the children would listen, mistaking the sound
for God’s labored breathing.
All was well until gravity faltered.
The moon fell into a lightning storm over the ocean.
The dead lost their balance,
their bodies scattered.
Men awoke to a firing range of light.
They crawled up from the earth to watch
the blackbirds flee to higher ground,
light sinking into the ocean.
The tides tilted.
Time trembled and went mute.
The alms of the living bowed
under the apology of the body,
the exile of wind and refrain.