Sunday, March 24, 2013

Still Life (Published in Monterey Poetry Journal, October 2013)

It was night, cold and dry and still.
Ahead we see cars with red and yellow lights, pulsating
Like lighthouses on cliffs of a black sea.
Two girls sit in the back row of a car, one with her head
Leaning back on her seat, face turned to the window,
The skin mostly gone, but there was enough left
To see her expression--she looks stunned,
Her face says calmly oh no, look at me, 
I am dead. Her arms have fallen to her sides, the skin
is gone but the sleeves of her blouse hang in pieces,
The bones of her wrists with hands turned upwards lay in her lap--
This was all that was left of her after the fire.
This is what her mother will see when she comes
To the morgue. I don’t turn my head away, my own 
hands are holding my head, as if my head were so heavy
two hands are needed to hold it up, but my hands will not
release my head or turn it, and my eyes could not
Leave hers, that would have been cruel, to just
Look away from this incinerated girl, to drive away
Quickly and turn up the radio as my friend wants to do.
The other girl’s head has fallen face down onto her breast
so we could not make eye contact, therefore I focus my attention
On the girl I can see, on her white cheek bones covered
By ash, and her eyes, the holes where her eyes had been, 
turned to me but not into me, past me.
A man is sitting straight up in the driver’s seat, 
he too bone and ash, sprinkled with broken glass, 
and I wonder, was he sober when he drove them all
out of this world? Possibly the only world 
they would ever know?