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Safe Words: A Zombie Sonnet
Deep down inside, we knew we were bad.
All of us. Everywhere. Everyone had
a cellular knowledge of what we had done
to all of our victims. And now we have come
to a drought of fresh blood. To a desert of flesh
where the ground is a stone, where the wind just a breath
of enmity, apathy, memory, dawn.
Alone with our horror. Our hunger now gone
to sleep with its victims, now marrow and hair.
The scent of them absent. No trace of them where
there once was a bike path, a playground, a mall.
We wait for a sign. We'll wait here while all
of the stars flicker out. Until time itself ends.
To reunite, finally, for dinner with friends.
There are rumors of sky.
Last words of swimmers, fallen
from waves. Limbs unkempt,
sleep-sown hair tossed
over wet, windy, winding sheets.
Swollen eyes, pressure kissed,
or eaten by the curious
fish who want to taste last sights.
Synesthesia, second hand.
Pearls of life melted
on tiny tongues.
A child's game, the rumors pass
from lips to ears to lips,
stirred by convection,
"Yes, there is sky. It's where
they make the dead."
This summer is older than last summer.
This summer has white in its hair
and a beard gone dry and wiry.
Spring was younger than ever.
Falling all over herself to make mistakes.
Barefoot on wet pavement.
Asleep on the front porch.
Inventing drama with her roommates.
We don't know yet about fall.
And we never speak of winter.
Deep winter made Amelia Jesus.
"Mimi" to her friends, she skates the lake behind the farm
where no cows graze and no corn grows.
Walking on the water where
she'd dived last summer, touched the bottom,
swam to shore, kissed Donnie Blake
while they both dried in sun and breeze.
Sixteen soon, by next December she will drive
to see him weekends, stay the night, and maybe
maybe maybe maybe let him let him let him...
She slides a thin skin of change. A scant few inches
held between the piercing blue of Christmas sky and
a black like swollen pupils, grown to try
and catch the last pale winking light.
It never broke before.
"Wait until Christmas," was the rule. But whether
Mimi was a little heavier with muscle mass
from soccer and a lot of yoga
or the ice was thinner... still remembering a long
It didn't hurt. She wasn't even scared.
Couldn't feel the cold. Body soaked with shock
and chemicals and vertigo and
all she sees is white above. The pale
thin skin of change.
Her mother's shouts of, "Mimi! Mimi! Mimi!"
the last sounds heard as fingers tap
one last time
on something solid
and Amelia remembers,
"Oh, yes... Jesus dies."
Fallen, fallen in the snow.
You can point, but she is gone.
We name the hole the thing. The wet recess
where she once lay. It’s long hatched
its angel, though.
Wind and flakes have now erased her footprints there
and back. Two wings. Two legs. A head.
A halo where
she shook her snowsuit hood.
The hole is not what’s real.
The angel is revealed, released and dances now
with cocoa and a powdered doughnut. How
the white fluff coats her fingers,
coats her cheeks.
Winter wind seeks cracks, lifts twists of sugar
and of snow, dusts eyelashes of angels
as we watch them fall
and watch them dance
and watch them go
Because he loves me,
and because he has a sense of humor,
my God has shared with me the ten ways
I might die.
There is the misstep on the stairs while carrying
too many things.
The food poisoning from tiramisu.
Car crash in the rain (not my fault).
Car crash while merging (my fault).
Heart attack when surprised by a young relative
in the act of eating peanut butter
(smooth) straight from the jar.
Hit by falling masonry while a tourist in London.
Stroke on an airplane over Kansas.
Dying in a dream and not dying in real life,
but then dying when I get up to write that down
as an idea for a poem
and trip on my slipper and crack my head
on the vanity.
Choking on an hors d'oeuvre I didn't want
but ate to be polite
to a person I don't like
at a party I didn't want to go to
but went to be polite.
Quietly, in my sleep, in a hospital bed,
surrounded by people I don't recognize.
Because I love Him,
and because I have a sense of humor,
I switch to chunky.