V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics





Tomorrow is the first day of August.
Why are the locusts' leaves falling?
Now the fighting is in Liberia.
A parallel might be drawn
between the soldiers and the leaves,
except the way leaves fall and soldiers fall
is not the same.
Still, I have avoided the word, death.
Which even to write, to read, to say
sticks like a burr
to the singular life I wrap like a cloak around me.

In Liberia the children sit in tents,
and cry in a familiar language
which is also strange.
I have never gone without food.
A photo in the morning paper shows
the soldiers nested like shoes
in a box, heel to head.
The morgue has no more room.
A spot of blood shines
on the ball of one foot
that rests on one ear.

Feet and hands know how to lie still,
and that portion of us without weight
remembers how to gather itself to itself.
What happens next, I'm not sure.
The soldiers in the morgue know.
In that, they are comrades.
Maybe death is a country
where we finally understand each other.
Liberia is so very far away.
The tear I do not shed for them
is salted with pity for myself.


© by Jan Koenen


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