01 October 2008

elly portnoy

i was there

When the desert groaned,
legs splayed wide enough to push
a city through; when she birthed a
populous of rain-dancing transients;
when the well dried up, and the
words, bitter as wormwood,
spilled over bridges and freeways,
immobilizing a nation stuck
on fast-forward for (only) a
few moments, but long enough
for some of us to re-remember how
to draw an honest breath: I was there.

I was there.
When she called and her fingers
were too indecisive to break
the needles or take out the trash;
when the cotton balls were soaked
in nail polish remover and tossed
into her fireplace; when she claimed
that all the lighters had left the
building, my bag coughed up
some matches, and between her excuses
and my fury, her last option was set
ablaze; when we sifted, weeping,
through those ashes, in search of a
direction, a windmill, or at least a
question needing an answer: I was there.

And I was there.
When the last soldier shrugged and
another battle was squelched by
indifference; when another was
beginning because someone
forgot to check the headlines
that day; when who did what with whom
became more significant queries
than what the fuck, and why;
when the monarchs' stilted
journeys only spat them back
to a flattened and sadder version
of home; when they hovered
with patient faith, waiting for the
June bugs, the roly polys, the earthworms
and the honeybees to shake off
yesterday's trompling; when the first one
couldn't believe anymore and
dropped, soft as my grandfather's
silk handkerchief, into the dirt below: I was there.

I was there.
When he looked into his future
and saw the stars burning out,
one-by-one; when the universe
went dark and even the wishes
of the gods froze in mid-realization;
when there wasn't a crumb
left in his hourglass, only a photo of a
painting of hope giving way to
desperation; when the disparate
platelets and white cells
coagulated and the family,
thicker than blood, burst
from bony closets and lonely corners,
terrified and uncertain, but together;
when we clung to each others hands;
when no one knew what to
name this sort of grief, when
all was lost in a bonfire of tulips,
ink and tufts of yellow yarn: I was there.

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