It was before the cities reached to clutcha tightness in their chests where convoysof Cadillac hearses clotted the lanes, followedthe limos in slow reverse, the mournerslike dark corsages folding onto the leather.It was before the mothers inflated, leanedinto sky, and the shadows shrankwhere their hems dried, the ruckus of mudslick relaxed, before the earth's running boilsucceeded its simmer and spat the bonesand the bones redressed and the fleshregained composure, before the lids were openedand the corpses softened their posture,before the future in which we would lift our chinsout of our collars for breaths to retreatinto our breasts where there would still coilother breaths yet to wear a nameunable to encapsulate what absencewould follow as had the one before,as had the one before, as had the one before,as had the one beforeit was recovered from a creakingof boughs, or hum of horseflieson a river's long face, or the lie that unbecamea war, or the bloat of heat a battlefieldremembered, before this one phoenixedout of hellish effigy of that sweetnesswhich preceded the fall, or anything was knownof the fall. Or it was all of these, allat once, and earth shuddered underthe unbearable—but would bear it—and those of us left with breath to say yesto this, having said it—not as in permission for,which was not asked of us, but asrecognition of—heard the wordbullet away, black-winged where the day stardrowned and the applause of life settled downto silent anticipation, to land within the handsnow closed around a no rolled onto its back. [End Page 237]
Justin Phillip Reed's first full-length collection of poetry, Indecency, is forthcoming from Coffee House Press in 2018. He lives in St. Louis.