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What Distance Burns

June 2021, no. 432

What Distance Burns

June 2021, no. 432

Smoke softens the trees, a swift omen scented before seen.
It warps what it brings, from the sun to grief.

I stir on the stoop I rent. All around me wasps shimmy,
Orange alphabet of knives. I call them father and son

Until my tongue blisters. I chew the queen into bits
And for a moment, we understand each other

Her children and I, the way a believer understands God:
As a largeness capable of being

Stung. Out of stillness I come to marvel
At my survival, the stupendous absurdity of breath.

I tremble so violent I vibrate off the ground, a man
Dripping between earth and sky with only a mother

Left in life – what luck – and men I will never call
Baba. Soon I am high enough to see the limits of burning

The pall dispersing over waves, the end arriving
As always, on the edge of an unfathomable wing –

In the long vanishing blue I smile a migrant smile
Knowing we look our best as we leave.

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