57 Years

Crunching skin under hand, the wet skin

of hours, the wretched cold legs of death

 

Kick out at you, beg you to carry them—

and you do—it’s your job.

 

Wash your hands, cut your hair, shave

your face, make empty promises, to

sensitive words,

 

Drifting, but unobserved—controlled,

beaten back, waves of dispassion, hold

back tears—too late.

 

They brim at the precipice, lids not

hesitant; they wet the skin below, as

 

Knees knock between uniform sleeves,

and radios squawk—you listen.

 

57 years doesn’t seem long enough—

not by half—not as a given.

 

*

 

Don’t look at her face—and you don’t—

thank you, for that—cuts you down to size, as

 

The examiner rips the bag: a dead woman

you’ve never known—

 

And the ideas: her broken-hearted, drunk,

live-in boyfriend, and

 

The fear, the anonymous, the cold:

they are all small enough now, precise;

they can fit inside,

 

If they need the warmth—and they will

wet the skin, break through, the things you wished—

please, no—don’t take hold.

 

57 years is really not long enough—

not at all—not by half.

 

But 57 years is all there was;

57 years was all she had.

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