Paul Guest

The world hadn’t yet gone up

in cartoonish hellfire, which

was what I imagined

back then. The end was never far.

Right now, I could find

the street down which

my father drove the day after

Chernobyl. I could recite

in the green shade the swiftness

of everything ending. Of

dominion. I have a mind

for whatever is eternal. I am

whistling in the darkness.

I’m weeping. Am transported.

Look at how the earth has changed.

Look at the fallout of winter.

Look at the dead that

are beside the road like litter.

All too closely, this fact:

summer, and its golden heat,

and my young body,

never hurt before that day,

just bruised and scraped

and dappled by the pox of childhood —

then in a ditch, unbloodied,

but nearer to death than

I am comfortable admitting. Tonight.

Tomorrow. Next year.

Imagining brokenness: imagining

the radicalization of the flesh.

Made dumb. Also: numb

and burning in the flames

of misapprehension. I thought,

then, everything now is over.

Like a movie. A song.

Not sadness. Not the weight of things.

I was still. Green branches

fell over me and the sun

was only burning up. A star

that was not a metaphor

for anything. When I say to you,

I have seen the black floor of the ocean,

you should know better

than to believe me in that moment.

My heart was broken, then,

and my arms were no good

at all. These words are what was left

of my breath. I am

so very tired of time and of waiting

for nothing to change.


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