Audio: Read by the author.
It wasn’t a death exactly, though I’ve been
undone by deaths the same way. To not feel, I’m trying
to watch a cat twitch her way across the yard, but droplets
film the window screens. It’s like those optical
illusions: a rabbit, a woman, a rabbit. I keep seeing
two things. Even without the screens, it’s not
much of a view: the matted lawn, scabby with rain-eaten snow,
sky a bleached headstone. I read about the Rohingya woman,
half her face puckered with burns. She had to watch
while they hacked apart her children. The men
raped her, then locked her in the burning house.
Against that, my own loss hardly factors. Why can’t I
see it that way? To make a shelter, the woman
had to beg neighbors for wood and scraps of metal.
Sometimes, in weakness, I think I want
not to be. I should thank you for everything
I haven’t had to endure. Still,
what to do with the feeling: glass
bell, its clapper of lead? Beneath my ribs
a star of twisted tin. It’s too much.
Look at this woman, you say (or at least,
the words arrive) turning my mind
back to the article, Look at how much
she’s suffered. And it’s obvious. I already know
before I know it: Look
at how she wants to live.
Claire McQuerry is the author of Lacemakers (Southern Illinois). Her poems have appeared in Tin House, American Literary Review, Fugue, and other journals. She is an assistant professor of English at Bradley University.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.