by Chris Abani
When you first see a man die
from a machete cut or a bullet,
which is to say, when you first confront
the astonishment of blood and feel it
creep over your skin like a sugary sludge,
even though the cracks it wets are not your skin,
but really the obsidian of the road,
you feel sick in ways you thought not possible.
A deep and wonderful bile
that can never leave your stomach.
And then the days pass and you become familiar
with its ways and it bothers you no more
than cherry syrup dripped over pancakes.
You grow bored and impatient with it all.
With the shock of those just-arriving moments.
After that, people can die around you day and night
and you go on without noticing.
My capacity for it scares me.
Blessed are the undefiled in the way.
There are two ways to view the body.
Resurrection and crucifixion.
Everything that falls between is ritual.
Copyright 2010 Chris Abani
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.