We spent the day in Custer searching for burros,
the survivors, at least,
those who burned but didn’t
burn enough to erase them from this continent
of barren hills and fields. My son pointed
to a field of yellow flowers and we looked
out windows, the smudge of fingertips blurring
the glass. The burros, we’d been told, love the roads,
the people who come to see them if they can
overlook the bison
but they stayed distant, ghosted shadows
cresting hilltops, their long ears black
against the fading light of the day. We were tired
of searching in all the easy places, and the other ghosts
were coming out to watch us all. It’s simple magic
to turn off your eyes to something in the darkness.
The photograph on the first page of the newspaper
looks back at me like a naked shadow
built of bruises, a pummeling
of the layers below the dermis
and we are told
to stop resisting
as if our appetite for tomorrow has been quenched, as if breathing
is always silent in the backrooms where memory cuts
slits into our eyes so we see more than
nothing can hurt you again.
The mouth of the queen yawns in honor of your death,
revealing the soft pink fruit inside, for just a moment before
clamping shut, tightening the noose of teeth
indifferent to our forgetting, our remembering, to who looks back
from inside our cold bodies playing spectacle.
If you let me hold you close,
I’ll tell you how our blood
is a roadmap to reverie.
I’ll make a joke about speedbumps.
If you let me hold you
at a distance, your eyes
will free me from ruin.
I’m not sorry for being sentimental, for a wish
that forgetting was only silent
drumming at the end of the march.