sky burial

John Sibley Williams

          — for john balaban


unsticking pushpin cities from grandpa’s bloodied wartime maps.

finally freeing the butterflies autopsied & encased behind curiosity -

smudged glass. it’s as if the ironwood outside my window has gone

all nooseless & pious, the roots sanctified, history rewritten. no longer

an intimate abstraction, my mother & and the river that wears her ashes.

no longer sharpened, this horizon. this next new horizon. the bones

the scavengers lift overhead in prayer. the paper stars my daughter

cuts from old newspapers & worships as if real. real, as in our unhealed

divisions, all this unexorcised manhood. the folded flag in the rusted locker

beneath yet another sleepless bed. the tea set my wife’s grandmother smuggled

through three internment camps, that my children drink from now. & their dolls,

worn at the seams, insides spilling out, circling the chipped porcelain pot like

vultures. wolves. another justifiable hunger. i once bought a revolver

to give me something to foreshadow. bullet, i’m sorry about the dust.

the airless shoebox in the closet behind my ill-fitting attempts at being a man.

which is the point after all, isn’t it? to kill the wolves that dismantle the dead

we couldn’t bother to bury deeply. deeply, the ironwood spreads its wings.

the flag unfolds. & sleep. honest-to-goodness sleep. moments like that,

                                                                                   you can love this country.


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