A noise in the courtyard wakes me: dull
blow against brick, perhaps a dented car fender
clattering to the pavement? In the dark I bolt up,
disoriented: pulse racing, heart lurching

ever ahead of thought. Don’t chastise me for how this
far along in middle life, I haven’t mastered composure.
Guilt, grief, remorse, whatever name you’ll give this
high-pitched tension humming underneath the skin:

in the moment that nerve is plucked, the needle
jumps to a higher frequency. Is each child safe?
Knowing nothing of the future, I tremble,
love dissolving in the mouth like so much rain.

Maybe I don’t need to come every day for 17 months to stand
near the prison gates, like the poet did for her son—
or give my hair or clothes or voice for ransom to some god
pronouncing sentence, punishing one simple pleasure after another.

Quarreling with guards, the magistrate, the lawyers, I’ll
reproach what I can, whom I can, petition, represent—
Such depths have been scoured before by others. I don’t believe
there is only shame in wearing one’s troubles like a crest

upon a shield. I’ve read of loveliness that increases,
very like a promise: that it will never pass into nothingness,
will burn like the flower birthed of fire it was meant to be:
exist as that child you want to see grow to maturity, see

yearning brought to richest ripening— No other
zenith but what blesses breath and breathes.


In response to Via Negativa: Waterbound.

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