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Scene at the Camp


It is the hour of departure...
(Neruda)


They sit in front of tents
on small, scraping stools
or in the brown mud
and hold papers
in waxy hands, readying
a smile, then draw
their tongues back
into warm, bleeding
mouths until their voices
condense further and
further into wet, yellow light.
...


We Are Still Alive

We are still alive, says the girl
who sits in half-dark, with her back
to the window, blocking the last light.
We don't believe her. Elsewhere,
in harshly lit rooms,
people undress neatly,
elsewhere curtains are drawn,
elsewhere a TV hums, waiting
for silence.

No one here looks out of the window,
nobody carries the weight of lack
from sill to table,
where we have gathered
a few memento: photographs
and cigarettes mostly--
an economy of the landless.
Cigarettes are traded for shoes
(but where would we go?)
and photographs show all
that had been left behind: farms,
trees, wheatfields, a tractor,
a smiling father, healthy and tanned,
even in black and white.

And now here, the earth's center is pushed
slowly to the periphery, sounds multiply
without reason, the evening bows
before the clock, the clock rules
our fears. Women and children first--
so that the memory can be passed on
through an anthology of the body.
We lie, skin to skin,
hip to hip, the strangeness
between our bodies. The girl screams,
her body knows death even in the wild
flesh, knows that history is a woman.
Everyone wants to squirt his seed
into her, wants to machine-gun
his way home, wants to plant trees,
wants to cut down trees. The worst
is behind us, someone says.

We don't believe a word.

They sit in front of tents
on small, scraping stools
or in the brown mud
and hold papers
in waxy hands, readying
a smile, then draw
their tongues back
into warm, bleeding
mouths until their voices
condense further and
further into wet, yellow light.
...


We Are Still Alive

We are still alive, says the girl
who sits in half-dark, with her back
to the window, blocking the last light.
We don't believe her. Elsewhere,
in harshly lit rooms,
people undress neatly,
elsewhere curtains are drawn,
elsewhere a TV hums, waiting
for silence.

No one here looks out of the window,
nobody carries the weight of lack
from sill to table,
where we have gathered
a few memento: photographs
and cigarettes mostly--
an economy of the landless.
Cigarettes are traded for shoes
(but where would we go?)
and photographs show all
that had been left behind: farms,
trees, wheatfields, a tractor,
a smiling father, healthy and tanned,
even in black and white.

And now here, the earth's center is pushed
slowly to the periphery, sounds multiply
without reason, the evening bows
before the clock, the clock rules
our fears. Women and children first--
so that the memory can be passed on
through an anthology of the body.
We lie, skin to skin,
hip to hip, the strangeness
between our bodies. The girl screams,
her body knows death even in the wild
flesh, knows that history is a woman.
Everyone wants to squirt his seed
into her, wants to machine-gun
his way home, wants to plant trees,
wants to cut down trees. The worst
is behind us, someone says.

We don't believe a word.