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Diptych

Intelligence has given us the aplomb to
loathe ourselves but not the wit to change.

               JirŪ CÍch

 

Petroleum

Oh god, the way those bones blacken in
petrol fires! If they burn long enough they
resemble the crows of childhood that
resemble the lonely morticians in their
worn-black suits that resemble the sheen
on polished coffins and finally coal in the
pockets of politicians who at dinner, in a
fine restaurant, sniff the scent of burned
flesh and bone, and cock their heads as if
listening to the smoldering, and salivate.

Such a wide circle we’ve cast in a sea that
has no floor, only a burgeoning darkness as
we descend, year after year, into our silly
killing hearts. And our minds look the
other way when the belly-bloated child
nibbles on the seared flesh of her ancestors.
And our hands fidget against the tender
words caught under our tongues, chewed
meat of affection, that peculiar light we put
out with spit when the earth spins toward
night.

Inside the smoking black bones the
marrow’s turned to oily soot and a wormy
dog carries off what it can, though the heat
burns through to its spine.

Live long enough and you’ll dream of
distant constellations, of burning suns
encircled by new planets, a meteor shower,
and spores just now sprouting in unsullied
gorgeous slime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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God

Your god and theirs must love war, for if he is as all
powerful as you say then why doesn’t he put an end to
battle? He must love screams of the burning child, the
limbless girl, the mother’s teats blown off under the
suckling’s lips, must love the suckling blown gone, too:
laughter turned to meat scraps for crows and beetles.

God must love the repetitive hacking of the machete and
sword, must make clever wagers, as he once bet the
Adversary that Job’s soul would survive his cruel
plagues and murders, wagering these days on just how
many blows will sever the head from the torso. He must
love the way blood, like his pretty cardinals, flies
momentarily in air smoky with burning towers, and the
headless bodies slump then topple like giant ant hills in
the rainy season.

And if what you say it true, god made ants, too. Did you
know some species live as one ever-expanding colony,
from South America to California, working together in
perfect machine harmony. They can build a bridge
without blueprints, the dirt-grain span arcing from both
sides up, until it meets, complete at last in the middle.

And when a bird or lizard snatches one away the others
keep foraging, heedless.

I do not want to be an ant. I want to be the woman I am
who loves her husband so much she dreads his dying,
who feels her own life slipping away when he slips out
of her, who knows because she is dying it is all the
same: One thing, god of indifference, inseparable, like
people holding hands as they fall out of the sky.

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