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September 10, 2016

a-pompeii-body

At dusk the streetlights
stand like beacons to the underworld,
a girl runs toward me beaded with rain
and sweat. I think husk, wheels
seeds rattle, shake loose and a candle
is held to the egg’s red mass she is
too young to see. In Pompeii those bodies
are not bodies but plaster poured
into the cavity where a body once lay,
no less a hand pushing back ash,
no less a woman with her unborn child
twisting for a pocket of air,
the forge, the fire, the glimpsed blade,
a door we close quickly, just as my brother
said Now I know I will die, and I thought
of course and not me in the same second.
We kept driving, arrived at the airport
and the next day our father did die —
aria, the birds rising at the sound
of the explosion and plums, succulent
ashy, burnished. Walking down the Spanish
Steps on a Sunday morning in October,
no one there yet, Keats’ window open,
you said Ten or fifteen years from now
when I am gone, come back
. You touched
our absence from each other,
the fifteen years ahead you’ve always had —
when in dreams I am older and you
remain as you were when we first met,
before devotion was returned,
or was it that I let it be — our lives together
suddenly recognizable as if seared pages
fallen from a larger book.

Maxine Scates

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