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In the Breath of Ten Thousand Metals

From: Tampa Review
47/48, 2014
pp. 24-25

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In the Breath of Ten Thousand Metals

Almadén, Spain—1583

We have all committed crimes. Whether or notthey are the ones we were accused of—liftinga loaf of bread from its carrier with spell-weightedfingers, a lost blue horse, the wife we forsookfor cold islands of macabeo in the night—guiltforms in our hands each day like a poundof cinnabar. Pander metal, the always huntedor latticed. Lustering as the deep-knowingsky that watches us. It’s that we want the guilt,we want the heaven, we want the red lead.And we are told to find it. Or soon our bodieswill fall into the long, entropic tomb rimmedwith its unavoidable scatflowers. In our twoshirts, the breeches and stockings, the singlehood we wear to bring darkness close to usas it will come—the apothecary, the cupof water as large as a child’s hand, the sunthat imprisons us more than the men who saythey have imprisoned us—all of the provisionswe are given for each day to pass are notenough. With buckets, we bail the rain outafter the dog-hungry storms. There is nowherefor it but over our shoulders, back behind usin the place we just have walked. Some menwrite to their mothers and ask for comingback. Back beneath their melancholic skirts,calico and ugly as the face of someone who hasspent the evening with her own yeasty tears.To where the wind won’t fiss, wherethe mercury in its fat pails won’t find a wayto talk to us. There are sounds and there aresoundings. In the hymnals, it is not the same.The chaplain, who is one of us, asks silvercoins for when we will not give over ourhour to God. And where is he down amongthe mines, hero of the picaresque whose namedoes not have surrender in it? It is takingour hands—the poison—it is a beautiful thiefto talk to us. To tell us the rivets. The spangleswhich could be horses in the night. Insteadof dreams, the whitening shape. Into a cup of wine. [End Page 24] An ear crinkles in the fire, a sole or a potof shoes right before the oven’s door. Not a crownto our heads but something blooming. Listen, ourteeth have found a way out. The hell is with usinside and forever now, it is our own unendingskeleton. Every bell, every bell that has turnedwill turn and turn to gold. There will be nojustice for any man. Only our toxic bodies,which after all are innocent. [End Page 25]

Sarah Crossland

Sarah Crossland earned her BA in Storytelling (Fiction, Poetry, and Folklore) from the University of Virginia and her MFA in Poetry from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in May 2013. She received the 2013 AWP Intro Journals prize, judged by Ben Grossberg, for the poem published in this issue.


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