Call it Limbo


This absence.

Everywhere, the vanished

fallen, the land not marked

where they fell. Cold ash. The seasons

passing swiftly now, uninterrupted—they seem


to have flattened all

but the glacial hills. Something once fashioned

by hands has been found now and then, outliving

those hands. Ladle, needle, broken

blade. Don’t name it,


where small fires have gone out,

broth grown cold and dried

to film, the air emptied of stories

and of the men’s voices telling them

in whispers, those nights passed in stealth


and watchfulness, under the cover

of no moon. In the nearby villages

the women removed their petticoats and tore them

into tourniquets. Don’t call it

the waiting—beneath blank sky,


beside the cauldrons of water hauled up

to the hearths, the makeshift wards….

Limbo. Those nights, the ground grew

porous, ready to receive the dead

and the irrevocably harmed–the women felt


the clutch of something. The years

to come. This absence

of whole, living men who left

what they could—locks of hair, portraits

that froze them unsmiling,


names to be slipped between

the names of newborns.

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