Red Sky Mourning

a poem by Jessi Harrison

When the sun set, you remembered how cold
the kitchen tile felt – linoleum pressed to your face
like that’s how you survived. Like if you could have maneuvered
the checkerboard pattern as a chess game – everything would
have made sense. There would have been rules, then.

Your body wept that spring. Shed layers of guilt & lust & love
& loss & surprise; like that’s all it took to compose a life.

The dog laid her head by your belly – expanded as a form of habit you couldn’t
quit. Her tail curled underneath your legs. Her breath; uncomfortably sticky
on your balmy skin. Her eyes; brown & sympathetic. Her bark;
The body expels everything it does not need. You were held hostage.
Like a leaf clinging to a tree. A drop of rain afraid of tumble.
The atmosphere creates violence in order to change systems.
Like a coupe. An overthrow. A regime shake.
They say a traitor usually second guesses their crime right before their treason.
Once committed – loss is a permanence that only pushes forward.
A chain reaction in lessons of how to fall.
On the floor, you remembered that despite all the king’s horses & all the king’s men,
Humpty dumpty was never whole again.
He must have swept those missing pieces into the forest, behind the wall.
Buried them in a place where only the executioner looked as he dug new graves.
Prayed no one noticed the eggshells. Talked loud enough to cover the crunch.
Spent all his money on gardening tools. Went into debt tilling soil; watering seeds –
shifting grief into any sign of something green.

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