November 2, 2023

Nocturne for My Final Breath

Bass clef of Cygnus’ throat,
        Orion’s brute cudgel,
and all you stars that burn
        without name or need
for anything more
        than your own terminal light,
what is it to exist
        without desire,
to be part of a distant myth,
        powerless to grant
or refuse a single thing
        but still wished upon
as you fall like tracers
        in some far-off war
I am ashamed to know
        so little of.
What is it to have no father
        who slouches across
the grainy fields of nightmare,
        the moon’s sallow glow
turned the colour of rust
        by the copper that covers
his eyes, the staggered
        scuff of his shoes
tugging the grass
        like ruminant mouths
that tongue a language
as the horizons you lantern?
        What is it to have no word
for the way I can’t remember him
        before his lungs
were shadowed like a Rorschach
        for the doomed?
Tell me,
        you who have never
drawn in the scent of sweetgrass,
        of a woman or rain,
what prayer might I,
        who have no faith in any gods,
spend the last small coin
        of my breath upon?
Only this.
        That my flesh might rise
from the flames
        that will consume it,
a constellation of cinders
        in the shape of a man
who turns the final, brief radiance
        of his face toward
your distant fires
        to wonder, once more,
at your beautiful indifference.

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A Journal of International Poetry
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