Listen:

Down here, we’re a bit base,
            a bit under-
            finished. Beneath all our living,  

we move the dust one footprint at a time,
            never free
            of our evidence—boxes upon boxes

of what we’ve broken and what we’ve kept.
            The everything
            we almost don’t want.

This is where our devouring
             comes home,
             where the open mouth

of the ash pit chokes on the warmth
             we’ve already spent,
             on the forests we’ve burnt down

loving each other over and over
             and not enough.
             Once, down here, I begged

for it. And then begged
             some more.
             I know: How base. How me.

But sometimes a ribbon of lace
             across a clavicle
             is a typeface only anguish

can decipher. Sometimes
             I needed you
             to press the folded halo

of your lips to my ear and tell me again
             about our dying,
             how the dust we breathe

is three-quarters us. Once upon this time
             your hand unfolded
             in the dark, white as a moonflower—

and struck me. It meant everything
             could be forgiven
                           but never would.

And I remember now
             how undead I felt,
                           and how I kept going down

                           until one of us was finished.

Detail of "Lace," a salt paper print from 1845 by William Henry Fox Talbot. From the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Fritz Ward

Fritz Ward is the author of Tsunami Diorama (The Word Works, 2017) and the chapbook Doppelganged (Blue Hour Press, 2011). The recipient of the Cecil Hemley Memorial Prize from the Poetry Society of America, his poetry has appeared in American Poetry Review, Best New Poets, The Adroit Journal, Gulf Coast, and elsewhere. He works at Swarthmore College and lives just outside of Philadelphia.