Spring wafts up the smell of bus exhaust, of bread and fried potatoes, tips green on the branches, repeats old news: arrogance, ignorance, war. A cinder-block wall shared by two houses is new rubble. On one side was a kitchen sink and a cupboard, on the other was a bed, a bookshelf, three framed photographs. Glass is shattered across the photographs; two half-circles of hardened pocket bread sit on the cupboard. There provisionally was shelter, a plastic truck under the branches of a fig tree. A knife flashed in the kitchen, merely dicing garlic. Engines of war move inexorably toward certain houses while citizens sit safe in other houses reading the newspaper, whose photographs make sanitized excuses for the war. There are innumerable kinds of bread brought up from bakeries, baked in the kitchen: the date, the latitude, tell which one was dropped by a child beneath the bloodied branches. The uncontrolled and multifurcate branches of possibility infiltrate houses' walls, windowframes, ceilings. Where there was a tower, a town: ash and burnt wires, a graph on a distant computer screen. Elsewhere, a kitchen table's setting gapes, where children bred to branch into new lives were culled for war. Who wore this starched smocked cotton dress? Who wore this jersey blazoned for the local branch of the district soccer team? Who left this black bread and this flat gold bread in their abandoned houses? Whose father begged for mercy in the kitchen? Whose memory will frame the photograph and use the memory for what it was never meant for by this girl, that old man, who was caught on a ball field, near a window: war, exhorted through the grief a photograph revives. (Or was the team a covert branch of a banned group; were maps drawn in the kitchen, a bomb thrust in a hollowed loaf of bread?) What did the old men pray for in their houses of prayer, the teachers teach in schoolhouses between blackouts and blasts, when each word was flensed by new censure, books exchanged for bread, both hostage to the happenstance of war? Sometimes the only schoolroom is a kitchen. Outside the window, black strokes on a graph of broken glass, birds line up on bare branches. "This letter curves, this one spreads its branches like friends holding hands outside their houses." Was the lesson stopped by gunfire? Was there panic, silence? Does a torn photograph still gather children in the teacher's kitchen? Are they there meticulously learning war- time lessons with the signs for house, book, bread?
Marilyn Hacker - 1942-
Nearly a Valediction
You happened to me. I was happened to like an abandoned building by a bull- dozer, like the van that missed my skull happened a two-inch gash across my chin. You were as deep down as I've ever been. You were inside me like my pulse. A new- born flailing toward maternal heartbeat through the shock of cold and glare: when you were gone, swaddled in strange air I was that alone again, inventing life left after you. I don't want to remember you as that four o'clock in the morning eight months long after you happened to me like a wrong number at midnight that blew up the phone bill to an astronomical unknown quantity in a foreign currency. The U.S. dollar dived since you happened to me. You've grown into your skin since then; you've grown into the space you measure with someone you can love back without a caveat. While I love somebody I learn to live with through the downpulled winter days' routine wakings and sleepings, half-and-half caffeine- assisted mornings, laundry, stock-pots, dust- balls in the hallway, lists instead of longing, trust that what comes next comes after what came first. She'll never be a story I make up. You were the one I didn't know where to stop. If I had blamed you, now I could forgive you, but what made my cold hand, back in prox- imity to your hair, your mouth, your mind, want where it no way ought to be, defined by where it was, and was and was until the whole globed swelling liquefied and spilled through one cheek's nap, a syllable, a tear, was never blame, whatever I wished it were. You were the weather in my neighborhood. You were the epic in the episode. You were the year poised on the equinox.