The illness

Today the boughs of naked trees
image a brain,
neurons splintering sky.
Here is a secret.
And you who never so much
as broke a bone before.

The evening finds you walking home.
Used thoughts crackle like leaves underfoot.
Who will put these thin jigsaws together?
Who can find the time? Who cares?

Have we finally asked too much of you?
Now that your own hands are liars,
now that your body
has an agenda it won’t share.
It is autumn everywhere.
Bereft of words for this,
you stop for a moment
at the side of the road.
In a bald field, a scarecrow
frightens no one.

You are a timecapsule,
and the secrets you bury
will take you with them.


The human

Before you leave, your mother
gives you a picture of Christ
to sleep with – a loose tooth
under your pillow.
Who has space
to dream of other, possible lives?

Some days, cigarettes in the dark
are fireflies; artillery shells
are fireworks.
You know a little music.
Good for when it gets too quiet.

Half a world away they are waiting
for the small crucifixes of your lips;
you do not know how else
to translate love, the act of missing.
They ask when you’ll return.

You watch the moon trace itself
badly into the sky,
palm it with one outstretched hand.

Years from now, a child will learn
names, places, dates, the deeds
of men who stained the earth. But not
he played the harmonica rather badly
and spoke longingly of home.


Now is different.
This year, this day. Everything
might be the last of its kind. You know?
Not like dinosaurs,
but the small nameless creatures no one finds
until they’ve up and disappeared.

The other day, there was a documentary
about some dumb animal on TV.
A frog. They turned its habitat into a highway,
like something straight out of the Hitchhiker’s Guide.
That made me laugh.
They only found the one,
gave it a name, let it go.
When I was young, someone built roads
through jungles, over mountains.
It might have been me.

Here time is a smell staining the walls.
These days, all I do
is watch TV, look at the calendar.
The squares are holes to fall in.
Where do I live? A small room.
A bed. The doctor does not know me.
She asks what are you thinking,
what does it feel like,
are you in pain.

Of course I don’t answer.
I guard what secrets
I still have.