POET - No Other Life


Six birds rise in unison from the roof across the street. They circle overhead, then they land again on the building’s brick façade. It’s dusk, and the birds are a perfect silhouette against the failing light. The dark is almost upon us. There is a ragged pink cloud in the sky; it wasn’t there a minute ago. The worst thing you can imagine is not the worst thing that can happen to you.

When your children ask, will you always love me, say you will love them forever, and then tell them what forever means. You can explain the heavens if they ask, and tell them, your bodies are made from the dust of shattered stars. But when they ask you, will I ever die, then lie to them. They’re still young, and it might frighten them if you said, no.

He wheeled a corpse into the narrow furnace, and said, there’s something I want to show you. He lit the gas, and the head rose from the table, the arms flew open and the body sat there for a moment in the fire. The flesh peeled away from the bones, and the bones snapped and burned with a fierce blue flame. When the oven had cooled and the door was opened, the ashes and bits of bone threw off a pale, opalescent light. That light, he said, is what I wanted you to see.

Last summer, I dug thistles from the orchard, cut the swollen heads from their spiny stalks and put them in a paper sack. When the sack was full I threw it on the slash heap to burn. This morning, when the slash and the deadfall limbs were in flames, I watched the sack curl with the heat; it rocked in the fire and seemed to float there over the coals. Then the sack burst into flame and a silky cloud of thistle down rose with the smoke and drifted to every corner of the field.

The passion flowers have bloomed at last on the chain link fence behind the bar. Bamboo rustles in the ocean breeze, and a palm tree sways slowly left and right. Inside, everyone’s talking; everyone’s telling another sad story. A cypress tree, ancient, enormous, towers over the bar, and every Friday night I step outside alone to look at it.

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