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's books include Temporary Kin (2020 forthcoming), The Typists Play Monopoly (2018) and Almost the Rowboat (2013). Her poems appear in Southwest Review, Mezzo Cammin, Naugatuck River Review, The MacGuffin, California Quarterly, Spillway,Forgotten Women,Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California, and elsewhere. Winner of the Rita Dove, Morton Marr, and Maria W. Faust poetry prizes, she is a Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee. Associate director and sonnet judge for the Soul-Making Keats literary competition, she teaches at Skyline College and The Writing Salon in San Francisco. In 2018-19 she was a writer-in-residence at Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.