Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

From Quarantine

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

From Quarantine

Article excerpt

Though I rarely slept I never missed sleep

I had learned to move as little as necessary

to work without effort to watch my wife

and son cry he cried in his sleep

my wife never spoke to me except to say

she would kill me but she never raised a hand

she did not leave I wanted her to leave

but I never needed more sleep until I saw

the bodies on fire in the river for days I saw

them blue and orange against a black sky

they would be black in the day without color

and the birds and the ants would settle on

settle into them until they were only ash

the river having kept them from burning

I was not sad at seeing them I knew I would

be a body burning blue in the river orange

to black this is not why I could not sleep

and only when the bodies stopped did it stop

the strain of such alertness then I slept

I sought the dark in order

to dazzle my life a horizon

line on the plains I cleared

my life of closeness nor did

the trees or stones remain

any longer in their places

I was so much at the river I do not know

when the death entered me or how

the smoke from the bodies fell on me

men fell on me boys fell was wet

some nights with the smell the smoke

was after I did not go into the river after

the bodies saw no one after the bodies

no one touched me or tried to break

no one touched me at the river

No one touched me at the river

but still I am falling I have fallen

into so much and still I am falling

So much attention

required by dying

I wish I had been

the first among us

then I would not be

charged with tying

everything together

I am not the only

person with a memory

who wants to be spared

a memory this story

If I could burrow into the dirt

beneath my back I would fracture

the earth to return and forget

the river and the nights I already have

forgotten what I have done portioned

into parcels memories I have lost

and now that I cannot see my thoughts

and movements are based on smell

the scent of death is black the sores

are black my wife's skin my son's

dry in the air now that there is no sweat

to keep their bodies which shivered in their heat

cold when I touched them dragged them

by the feet into this field they were cold

like my own hands and face are

they are dead and though I call myself dead

I have not died the words still move across

my face everything right now in the telling

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