by Claretta Holsey
Only a subtle move of my mouth contains
All that contained him
His name
Disengages from the tongue
Like a French h
Too shy to touch the teeth
Or speak
Il y a avait un homme
Means there was a man
Peeking out from between his intercostal spaces,
Awaiting the cue to puff out his chest
But the h in his man is now silent
And the man Nick would have become
Is making a home of his hiding place
Why did the man agree
To hush the h in his lungs?
(He was shot because of drugs)
Is the sum of what happened,
A neat, reductive phrase
To which we can’t attach a face
He echoes through our skulls
Then ricochets
The bullets of our imagination
Are a puff of a barrel’s breath
They move in slow, cartoonish spiral
We don’t think about how
The bullets that made room for themselves in him
Were as real as the English h,
As heard as sound waves creasing in air,
Breaking surface tension swimmingly,
Weaving through his hollows, plunging
Through the layers of his chest
As if it were sea
We don’t think about how the whites of his eyes
Were two Alka-Seltzer moons lost
In the pronouncement of fluid
How his bloody English h-human
Must have, afterwards, stretched
From his body like silken cloth, billowing
In the kinetic breeze of hurried, fleeing feet, reflecting
The curvaceous ridges
Of his supine figure,
The sound of his human becoming more and more French
In its retreat