DURING THE OCCUPATION we all eat fruit
of the poisoned dirt
What is history if not the breath
of the damned rising up?
In this blurred photograph my mother
so limp-limbed and worn My father raises his hand
against the blazing sun as if he could take it —
I no longer sleep at night I no longer speak
my own name aloud
Every night a howling wind
shears the bark from trees dismembers branches
Outside a stray cat caught in a steel trap
cries for hours
how long this dying takes
DYING THE PRIME MINISTER SAID:
“If I could speak you might understand,”
to which his killers replied:
“Dialogue is useless.”
They took a taxicab
to turn themselves in. Eleven naval officers
all barely twenty years old
and the people love these men so dearly
that eleven severed fingers
arrive at the courthouse with a petition
to spare their young lives.
Youth favors action. The old
wish only to speak.
In my younger days
I threw my soft-limbed body around
as if redemption were possible.
Now time is a robe stitched through with ash
I keep trying to shake off.
Looking back the path to war is clear
as an arrow whistling through still air
but now at the courthouse
men smoking and taking photographs
as if their living eyes could see
what the dead already know
The old judge scratches
his bald head as he approaches —
white straw hat
is carried off by the wind.
* * *
Mary-Kim Arnold is the author of Litany for the Long Moment (Essay Press, 2018), the chapbook Between Night & Night (Artifact Press, 2018) and the forthcoming The Fish & The Dove (Noemi Press, 2020). She teaches in the Nonfiction Writing Program at Brown University.