There are no words in our language to say this. They call it being in shock, this state where gas stations snap their lights off one by one and we’re marooned here now, left deep in the well where anesthesia is carnival. From the dolor blood drums behind my ears, all of it whispering—go ahead—go where the dead stand in the rain soft, and off-camera. Silence. Silence and ash.
On the beach I found the skeleton of a blowfish and no science, god, or creed to keep vigil over the waves, and so I took my place in the line waiting for the alchemy of dust and spent light. Sometimes a song rings out as if the words were missing teeth made from recycled rubber. I like my comrade the angry bald man. His eyes are blue, too. He tells us
about veterans who drench themselves in liquor north of the old shuttered silk mill. He lights a cigarette for those who would see the ruins through a chink in a cellar wall, the attic air dissolved in smoke. There was silence folded, refolded in the same locked drawer. You will not hear this, even after the war is over. You pack your new purse with lipstick, and mace, a poem useful as a coat to a coughing man, the plume somewhere behind him, the fire.
-- Kathleen McClung is the author of The Typists Play Monopoly (2018) and Almost the Rowboat (2013). Her poems appear in Mezzo Cammin, Southwest Review, Ekphrasis, The MacGuffin, Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California, Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace, and elsewhere. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, she is the winner of the Rita Dove, Morton Marr, Shirley McClure, and Maria W. Faust Poetry Prizes. McClung serves as sponsor-judge of the sonnet category of the Soul-Making Keats literary competition and as a reviewer for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, sponsored by the Stanford University Libraries. She teaches writing and literature classes at Skyline College and The Writing Salon. In 2018-19 she is a writer-in-residence at Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.