by Justen Ahren
“what times are these / when to write a poem about love /
is almost a crime because it contains / so many silences /
about so many horrors . . . ”
Above the skyline of the city, an orange flash
black smoke, minarets,
shattering glass — I rise and bring my lips to hover
above my lover’s navel, inhale
her sweet, wet morning scent, the alarms, and fires. These things happen at once,
far from one another and no actors were used in the making.
The television news
recaps another overnight bombing,
the probable number of casualties, the Dow Jones is up 1%. When I look up, I see
clear bubbles floating around my lover’s head, circling her shoulders.
In each, something witnessed,
or televised, or perhaps, too, in real life I saw a girl carrying an
ember on a leaf
through the gray drizzle of dawn,
blowing upon it to keep it alive. A boy shits in the rubble, a dog sniffs and eats it.
In another bubble,
chunks of snow are rocking down in haloes of streetlight, blending
with the black avenue
of a woman’s hair. Soldiers slump
in trenches, the snow building on the rifle barrels. A father searches
his grave hands. A wad of paper tumbles
on an escalator. A mother knits her fingers over an open fire. And there are more,
many more. In one, Ash
trees lining the river are strewn with plastic chairs, and clothes.
A family gathers
around a table in a house with no front wall.
Visible, they eat. In a field, a boy writes his name with a sparkler. He doesn’t
know the bombs his country spends
in other places, he doesn’t know I lay with my lover,
a frightened electricity
flickering in the wires of me. How easy it is to kill
out here among smoldering stumps, in desert cities,
among cows grazing on scraps of cloth, and in here,
the weatherman says we should expect snow
before it changes to rain. And I finish my small violence, occupying her with my
while the latest scrolls across the screen, twenty –four confirmed dead, with the
score of Sunday’s game.