Byzantium

A centurion crosses the hill of his fathers,
years swallowed down like wine.

Hair falls loose and curling over his temples,
stained, pitted, from campaign.

On the knoll, over a wind-swept town,
he stops. Watches smoke rise from the valley.

Pillage-poor, his sisters squawk in the streets,
husbands gone down to the ground.

He brought men here for them: It will be all right.
It may never be all right again.

He rides slow over the boyhood slopes,
slower still down to the river of his birth.

All moments led to this moment, this ending of endings—
under his war-clouds, the Lycus burns.

Photo by Simone Pellegrini on Unsplash.

I have seen you like a skyline

I have seen you like a skyline
far off behind twisted overpasses,
towers blue against the horizon haze.

A downtown intersection
bike-bells clang the moment’s urgency,
restless with doing, doing, doing.

I stretch out for your hands and they pass me by,
the crosswalk chimes
so do plans hurtle towards their fruition.

Pigeons nest between rooftop spikes:
My city loves
the only way it knows how.

Photo by Dillon Kydd on Unsplash.

Parting station

At the end of the tracks
there is new grass.
a broken rail-tie juts—
wooden in the sun.

Hard, sunbaked
iron falls away to earth
from ash to ash, to end.

No whistle now
only silence.

Step softly, between the little flowers.
When he takes your hand
be gentle.
Like petals passing over your calves
pale and parting underfoot.
No rush.

Step off the rails
and it will feel
so long
since you remembered new grass.

Photo by Jaime Dantas on Unsplash.

I, Tiresias

I, Tiresias, will never see enough.
Twisted in the flesh of two bodies
I wonder, and am never satisfied.
Between these augur’s eyes reigns chaos
midnight, napalm
a ghost train.

I was truth, a woman,
waiting on the platform as a stranger’s ear,
for some old man talking on through all the worries of the earth.
The plastic in his palm sweats
pink and chartreuse.
We wait together, willing and unwilling,
pasted on the asphalt
his voice wavers
in the humid grey of a half-set sun.

I was the man too,
who did not break the neck he held.
Your throat, brown, beating,
full to overflowing
beautiful.
The son of a sulfur city, in stone-burnt strength
iron wheels: roaring
my hands crush and split,
bone like cherries
but I held your death like a child.

Between the flesh of two bodies
stands a miracle.
I, Tiresias, do not see. And it is enough.

Photo by Jerome Barre on Unsplash.

The Scald

Once, in the fields we knew
I found a scrub wood gaping with ragweed
beside a gulch that smiled
with tin teeth.

A speckled dog lay there in the dirt
his breath racing between staggered jaws
mange-ridden, a hunter’s pet
caught in the crosshairs between loving
and being loved.

He nosed my hand as I drew back
brittle grass broke beneath his tail
beating, anxious. Buckshot in his belly,
a trickling reminder—
he knew something of forgiveness.

His flanks heaved, spotted with shit
and the whine of flies. But when he looked up
smiling, bloody-nosed:
he was just like me.

We sat together, among fennel wasted in red dust.
His tongue lolled, burnt with hope,
under the eye of the trees.

Photo by Joshua Gresham on Unsplash.