Neilah; Creature



The memorial to the lost memorial
could be a child’s tug, a pallor, a pall,
a locomotive, its banner of exhaust,
the spit of steam as the iron comes to rest.
What you do not know you know can break
a spine or set ablaze a stack of books.
Or harbor the tragedy yet to happen.
Rain falls into a chronicle we call rain,
and what abstracted politician can tell
the water from the word, the arrival
of spring from the crackle of erasure.
What downpour shapes a monument of tears.
These woods are full of statues if you listen.
I have heard the cries of lost children
float through the halls, and a hush at the end
gave each a stone to lay against a stone.
I saw once, in a dark museum, a small
striped jacket, a signet of the Holocaust,
pinned to a cloth. I swore to remember.
We all did. But whom? A friend, a number,
our own child inside the coat. The cap
beside it, no larger than a bowl of soup.
I swore again to recall the nameless
and left my bones behind me in the rain.


When my friend’s tongue seized up, writhing
in its chamber, it must have reached for something,
anything, it seemed, though who was I to tell?
The hour took forever, when, out of the muck
of syllable and stutter, he said, shit, and I knew
a barrier had broken, the first bricks tumbling
out of his mouth. Out of the warehouse district
of the southern brain, graffitied in obscenities
and roses: the throat of a motor that won’t clear,
won’t turn over, but we were going somewhere.
Not progress as we knew it, no, but what you hear
gasp in a shattered object, or creak in the chains
of swing sets in the breeze. A little damage is always
the first to arrive, last to go. Even silence breaks
something when it breaks, and if the music’s good,
your ribcage shakes, your heart flits on its trapeze.
If you are listening, you know, the way a garden
knows where to spread its net, to clutch an earth
whose body hangs over the dark of the other side.
For it is always there, the fundament, the stranger,
the midnight sky. I saw it in eye of the bewildered
creature, as we rode in the ambulance together.
Welcome back, I said, although I never heard him
curse before. Or after. Welcome back, my friend.