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.