It is lonely, breaks your heart,
for the quiet afternoon
to pause a moment in its stillness
as an airplane passes overhead
– the news reported on those
hundreds dead,
somewhere, elsewhere, distant –

or for a moving-truck’s ponderous engine
hauling several cardboard lives.
A neighbor you will never speak to
becomes engine noise
that will not fade
until, too suddenly to wonder – or

for bells to ring in a village church,
the sound bringing you nearly to tears.
As though each second
were large enough to hurt you,

or for the rumble of a running van
driven by faceless, unfound men
who came while you were out
and took apart your life:
television, handsets, jewellery
the little money you had saved;
who moved couches, dressers, bed
to reveal for your return
the years of grime collected underneath.
A store of bad dreams.
You walked through the emptied house,
smaller than you’d felt in years.

For weeks you slept in fear.
Even now you remember spying
strange tire-tracks on the driveway,
and for a moment not being able to understand
where they led.


I remember my sister singing, her breath
whirpooling the sea of dust
shaken loose from ceiling, walls,
her own voice trembling into silence
as outside, men shouted, screamed;
the fear – somehow – of drowning
in our empty, crumbling home:
I’d read of how all empires
are long ruins. We were not kings

but exiles of nothing, waiting,
the whole world
shrinking to our fearful street,
shut doors, barred windows, silence.
When it was good, we slept
without space in our bodies for nightmares.

One time, when it was safe, I snuck out;
the town was a skeleton
of someone I’d known all my life.
I wept.
Later, I found a hole
the size of my father’s heart
in a concrete wall.
I placed my palms against it,
imagined I was a child, somewhere else,
holding back the flood.