They carried my body like a horse rug
through the backyard. All skin, no air.
Potted peas hanging from rope, a wood
pecker siphoning years from the heartbeat
of a willow. I was looking up from the black
hollow of my shadow like a sea cow following
the shoreline. So in love with the diesel
greasing the grass blades, the light finger
print of each tip on my accordioned back.
The march was short, like a dream
in which hours occur in drams. I took
this time to remember the musical measures
of old lovers’ neck stones. The different
ways the sun would soprano through
their hair. And I remembered the glass
face of hate. How it was sharp from start
to finish. And I wondered the number
of who still felt it now. I pictured them
hearing the news that so-and-so
from the college years or that desk job
finally absorbed the earth like a sponge –
that alchemical mixture of emotion, of nothing
to say but sure, sorry, send over the details.
I focused on my mother and her fingernails,
always inked with soil, tomato blood, keeping
my father from losing himself to God.
My older brother weeping into the bed sheets
and his older brother ignoring the phone call.
I looked up to the salmon sun over Montana
rivers, shouldered by mountains, atheistic
to the satellites blinking out Morse. I recalled
a girl choking on the lightness of morphine.
How her blonde braids were donated
to the homeless. Some beads of rain never
blossom into energy. This sadness and evidence
must be specific. We look down at our chests
to find not a knife, but a sparkler, just lit.

Philip Schaefer