Pristine the ash no one has touched yet
before wind sweeps it along across the altar
dusting chrysanthemum and bees
before it is swept off again
the way the body burns
part by part
particle by particulate
its tiny cinders
of moth wings.
After sound there is no sound
a wolf sanctuary
void of howling
headlights on the winding road
picking up snow
a tuft falling on the heron
as her wingtips dip into water.
my hand shielding myself from light
as I adjust
frames along the wall
barefoot on the black bookcase
the heat of my footprint
disappearing though no hand wipes it.
In taking inventory of what’s left
what the dead have cleared in space
like the body of a boy
curled inside his dog’s bed
a boy filling his own rice bowl
until he doesn’t want to
I want to be beside him in the dark
to hear his voice again
to stop seeing him on the street
in the back row
of a classroom where I teach.
Is there no end to this need
mushrooms inching along
blades of grass after a field of rain
the heron fishing
wings spread to lure prey into her shade.
In war they say We’re not the top species because we’re nice
In life I say Let me come closer
even if it kills me.
Copyright © 2019 by Diana Khoi Nguyen. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 31, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.