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With a Fistful of Earth

How so soon after the funeral, there was laughter, & the children,

dressed in reverence, began to play, though they knew to hide some joy

while those closest to death waited for a moment that never came.

No eulogy is enough. No yellow lily on a chestnut coffin or fistful of earth.

No ritual. Nothing lasts, not even sorrow,

which is the iron clasp on the coffin that rings like a canary

after the singing. The bird brought into the light & the cage door open.

Tomorrow, it will be filled by the clean hands of morning,

so unlike the miner’s soot-black hands

that lifted the yellow breast to his lips to say, I’m sorry,

you weren’t meant for this. But like a childhood,

the cage door must close. The anarchy of smoke, the small fires

our ancestors kneeled toward to warm themselves, to stare into the distance

that had no border but the streaked gold that divided the land from sky.

Tomorrow. Black lace beneath a white linen shirt, the dream of death

which is hollowed in darkness. In working the thread of desire

the bodies become, for a slight moment, not separate, but dispersed.

The trees become silver when the snow descends,

& in that blur against the branches, a wolf steps into a buried trap,

yelps into the hourglass. But the leaf-light of late August comes.

The arthritic branches will gather sap. The children whittle them down

with the knives of their fathers & the patience of a woman, not yet showing,

looking into herself as the blue morning peers through a window.

At once, all things compile a palpable sense of presence & ruin.

Pine needles fall like rain, their scent’s ascension in September’s cathedral.

from Bicycle in A Ransacked City: An ElegyFind more by Andrés Cerpa at the library

Copyright © 2019 Andrés Cerpa
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

Published in Andrés Cerpa Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.