AN AERIAL MEANDER
Not to break frail bones, many of the 19th-century elderly
were wrapped in down quilts and told to stay in bed
for the winter.
Skyful of geese and snow. Whiteness clouds down
on the fire-builders rummaging through brush,
trying to hide something.
Enough softness here for a small village
to bury its old in.
Body-wrap of quilts and bolsters.
Years of flesh packed up like the good bone-china.
The frail bed-down under the Wolf Moon,
its light silvering the rooftops. Such a celestial lid
to cover the aged with.
Told to go to their rooms and stay,
the old become Olympian dreams of a cold season.
Wise enough to know spare room and slop pot
are not invitations to stay another month,
another minute, one woman sinks into her feathers at twilight,
the covers pulled high.
Pillows surround her like reembodied fowl.
She thinks of fleeing farther than the farthest farm,
her years of hibernation trailing behind,
as the shaking off of life begins.
Her heraldic bones break through the cloud cover,
flick everything brassy in the heavens aside.
Rib, hip, collar bone, and pelvis roll through the sky.
Then the tornadic rush
of what is left:
her boneless flesh sucked in,
as a blood-red dot.
Clothes as a scarlet midget,
she's War's soul caped in the shadows.
Sun pours in through artillery holes,
a river thaws with the dead, swims with them.
Lightness swirls in her head.
Beneath her cloak, tiny spades pick at her shoulder blades,
pinions thrust in each pore until slowly she rises
No longer the lone heart in a stone bunker,
she is an aerial meandering
of certain kind.
Below, they point and hungrily yell goose
as she flaps by. White wings over a stained land,
over bodies no different than boulders on the moon.
One hangs from a tree like a carcass on the rafters.
From the barns of cutlery comes the shout,
hold the throat back, cut quick like a pig's.
The sky flares. Mouths fill with a last long no,
lame calls to anyone—the flame-throwers, the fire-builders
intent only on running at each other.
Then the heaviness, the absolute
pull of inertia comes upon her. Her levity collapses,
frozen in sunlight. She is pounds of gooseflesh,
yellow skin on waning muscles.
Time is up,
down, all over her,
sinking her to the world again.
Feathers trail down in silence to where the hurling,
thrusting arms have tired,
have worn themselves to pieces—
human appendages that could have been wings.
k a t h e r i n e s o n i a t
b l a c k s b u r g , v i r g i n i a
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