you have to check their pockets, their shoes
make sure there are no scraps of paper
with reminders of what they need to forget
scratched on with broken pencil leads
held tight between dirty fingertips. you must also
check under the beds, be diligent
in searching dusty corners and windowsills
for lingering signs of words of protest
wiped quickly away.
even single, isolated letters
are dangerous and to be forgotten.
you have to check the dusty paths
leading past the buildings, make sure
the children are not writing in the dirt
with pointed sticks, that their parents
aren’t teaching them to write
the old words in the mud.
finally, check their bodies, their skin
for scraped etchings of phrases, the alphabet
any attempts to keep the letters alive.
are not to be tolerated
and can and should be completely removed.
I step off the train and shake myself free. My name
is drawn to your voice, puts me on my back
later, in the dark. From head to toe
I am this new woman, one that wants only you
pressed into the places I spread open
to God. Confession, it works against me,
there is always so much work to do.
Sparrows and cardinals and whiskey all scream
my life out on the thin quilt for you to go through, I tell you
that God has forgiven me my trespasses, that the Bible in my pocket
is the only thing keeping my dreams
from leaking out and clattering on the tiles
noisy as a handful of spent bullet cartridges.
across the street, a man invents a funeral for the past year
rakes fresh leaves into a pile around your photograph
an old russet tomcat blinks in the sunlight nearby.
the man gently scoops detritus over your face
makes a pillow of birch leaves and grass clippings
presses down with his hands as if performing euthanasia.
the garbage truck lurches down the road, startles the man