Three men step with the grace of air
into an upstairs room, slipping between
our bars and windows to bend
their backs over a cot with stained sheets
and a shuddering form, arms twisted
over her head, chest unmoving as the night.
Their hands grasp every fragment,
inspecting shrapnel in translucent
fingertips, light reflecting from the
edges to reveal holes that she
herself could not have known of:
Bruises, slits, and tears through which
the light leaked, seeping out over the
years to leave a shell of little holes,
which within a wounded spirit leaves
a shadowed husk, a swallowing abyss.
With hands as firm as a foundation,
eyes as sharp as steel, the men will
scrub each shard with the edges of
their robes, in silence always, daring
not to speak of what they understand:
Before the night is out, they will bend
their heads over another form just like
this one, worn edges to be bound, and
somewhere a psyche so gently sewn
together again has begun its unraveling.
But, as a bone, it fuses stronger upon
its healing, each stitch more aware than
ever of its own vitality, and these men
need not fear that they will run out of
thread or that a pricked finger may bleed.
Perhaps in your unraveling, you’d notice
how very lightly they press, the tears
that spring to their eyes upon the sight
of another stitch snapping, the smallest hole
swelling in the faintest corner of your heart—
How white their robes stain each heartstring
so cautiously unknotted, with such a strength
that it may burn at first, but with an ache
of swift forgiveness and continual repair.
These men soon fade and do not wait for thanks,
appearing to us as a dream of healing.
No more dark walls and boxes on account of this.
We are moving out of ourselves
God holds the rest.
The bruises will heal—the winestains may remain
on the carpet, but no one will notice.
If they do, I don’t care.
We fought with bare, weathered hands,
cracked with dried blood on the tips.
Now we wear bandages and rest easy,
heads on the pillows next to one another.
So young, been out of high school six, eight months?
Living in an apartment that smells like shit with spiders
spinning little shelters in the corner. A morning-after pill
rests on the counter next to hollow beer cans.
One case of wine from the grocery store. Empty
wrappers pile up on the nightstand by a couple
of half-read self-help books. Trying, at least,
parents shrug their shoulders and wonder where
they went wrong. Happy? Hardly any food in
the refrigerator, but antidepressants are always
within arm’s reach. I stay out of it. First few months,
I’d call, then stopped trying. Was that wrong?
Some nights I ask from the comfort of my parents’ house
when I summer there, just a few miles from the old place.
Lucky me, I got out. If you looked hard enough you’d
probably still see the dirt underneath my fingernails.
Is there a morning-after pill
for my brain? I would expel
all the memory from my system.
We crawled all night, grasping
at anything to dull the aches,
and multiplied them. Do any
of us ever learn? By three am
we couldn’t separate the screams
outside our own heads
from those within.
in my chest.
I would swallow
till the day
and the next.