Who We Turned Into
Somewhere in Pittsburgh, late in the thirties,
a ten-year-old boy, his mother’s youngest, lying sick,
sees how we all live generations later: on screen,
our big and small disasters rerun so often
we no longer own them, our little gods repeated
until longing, the one thing left us,
takes over like slashes and patches of ads
the boy’s too sick to run from. His white body turns
slowly into scratch paper, his face a magazine cover.
He settles back into laundry and dust.
Autumn deepens, and in his dream
his home and mother sink like boats in a tempest.
A woman hurls a lock of his hair into her boiling potion,
a severed hand turning to mush with carrots.
She stirs her potion with a human thighbone. Her bearded
brother stomps into the hut, commands her to leave
with him on a seven days’ journey into a dark forest,
across a wide river, through wild mountains full of jackals
and vultures. Now, he’s seated at a little table,
watching two men argue where to take him. A pinecone scent
suggests Christmas, yet no one wears green or red. The city sits
nearly empty. Moles push up through softly lit streets
thick with incense and barbeque sauce.
I’m walking in downtown Pittsburgh, and I look
into a restaurant window. Into his bowl of red
soup, the same ten-year-old crumbles angry crackers,
slips off the edge of my map and is lost, flying
fast as thought through rain-scented February, and he
who reaches for him grasps air. He contains everything I feel
about February when I stand up inside her
and everything I feel about August when I lie with her in a field.
I want to hear him read the names of towns and counties.
I want to treat his jokes like great ideas.
But in my house, both doors are glass,
and the cries of the trumpet are muffled.
This rain comforts me, and the Ellington album,
and the tangle of branches washed and dripping.
The moon rises to the sound of harmonicas and starts to gleam.
Starved for the sound of bells, I stay in my room and pray.
Inside my body, eagles target rabbits.
My legs and arms have turned to glass.