Why Seek the Dead among the Living?
As hollow as a gutted fish, a hole in the sand,
a cistern cracked along the seam—
There is no filling such emptiness. And yet—
Stitch it shut. Pour and pour, if you wish. Wish and wish, but it’s wasted—
Water carried to the garden in your cupped palms.
Might as well seal an ember in a wax jar. Kindle fire on the crest of a wave.
Unbloom a poppy, reshut its mouth, unred its lips—
As if it hadn’t already sung,
As if its voice hadn’t already set all summer singing.
And the gall at its throat, the boil it’s prized for,
Hadn’t been cut and bled of its white sleep.
As if a child could be folded, resewn in its sac, and returned to its womb.
Copyright © 2018 Jennifer Atkinson. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Summer 2018. Used with permission of the author.