by Eugene Ruggles
My neck sits in a pool
of gray leaves. In May. Draining.
To the west, on the other side
of Lake Michigan,
hundreds of shoes are scattered
across the end of O'Hare runway .
All of them are on fire.
A path of smoke is rising
from the center of the nation;
from the insides of shoes,
death has left
two hundred and seventy-three footprints
in Chicago, in daylight,
with a map of gasoline
curling around them;
where oil is burning the blood off
the bone begins to flow,
as the skin ends
the sound of rivets
and eyelids closing is spreading.
Hydraulic fluid has entered
every vein on board.
The huge wing of steel is offered,
broken off, and lifted up
through the lungs of an infant.
The other wing is a cliff
above tides of metal.
All the glowing instruments
of weather and direction and triumph
kneel between these wings
and begin to darken.
There is another kind of time
that does not stretch ahead of time
that does not stretch ahead of one
or sink behind one --
it flows off to either side
and hangs there, pressing the light
from bone, beyond arms, wings, prayers,
reaching for the echoes of God's body.
Perhaps some hear them once before dying.
I don't know. There are winds so hard
they leave behind them a silence
where the rain can be heard
hitting the bottom
of Lake Michigan. And spreading.
Though it is not water
that has fallen like rain today.
A grave is drifting over Chicago,
and the ashes of three friends,
a father, mother, and daughter,
sift to the bottom of the runway.
They are not with strangers any longer.
Near the edge gravel is turning over.
Insects stir beneath the concrete slab.
They scurry from the heat. Still alive.
In three days we honor the war dead;
beside these miles of white crosses
the lake waits , the news moves over it.
News of the dead, towed this far
by hand behind the boat people --
they arrive with our guides, the refugees
the ones living on water. And spreading.
I want to sleep for a long time
inside this husk of a tear around
my shoulders; beneath the left one
is a knot of rust. Turning over,
I reach out and feel the path beat.
And the grass ending at my throat.
A path through leaves of water.
In town the library and the tavern
open their shelves to the same dust,
the same ruins in my mouth.
Beyond all this a child is beginning
to run toward us from the beach,
the waves lifting spray around her.
She pauses, listening to the lake
until she can hear the lice
moving upon the sea gull's wing.
She closes her eyelids and waves
from where she can see them flying
through skin. There is no trust
And she is toucing nothing alive.
The light keeps falling into her mouth
with such grace, like an echo, a word
coming to rest in her, as though
it were already shaped by another.