Held

She remembers the voices but not who:
the stories they told in which the world
melted like a disc of tallow over some
unseen flame, in which houses on stilts

sank into caverns of mangrove root.
A girl— who was it they were speaking to,
or of? A girl was pushed out of the door
and into the world. Sometimes she sat

on a horse with mangy hair, sometimes
a hooded figure rode with her on a steed
with shiny flanks and jingling bells.
The roads led out and out, past

orchards late with harvest, only dark
shriveled knobs left on the topmost
branches. Who was it that locked her
in a room choked with dry wheat

and wires, then emptied a sack
into her lap? O patient, long-
suffering soul, the voices croon.
All night and all day, plinking each

grain like a bead on a thread
that spooled and spooled as though
it could be a river to the stars.
They never stop to ask what sound

continues to ring in her ears
after the sun goes down: a stone,
a button, a silver clasp; a cricket's
call, a wing-stroke cleaving air.




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