How much the colonel loved his granddaughters
you will never know.
Their laughter filled his black Mercedes
the way a flock of starlings might fill a single tree
What he’d had to do that day, he’d done
with a troubled heart,
but now their laughter overwhelmed him
with such unarticulable love
he could hardly
and neither could the empathetic little bomb
in the engine,
which chose that moment
to burst through the hood with self-obliterating joy.
And the Mercedes burned in front of the courthouse.
And the black smoke billowed and rose like a heart full of love.
And the colonel rose, too,
like burning newspaper
caught in the wind,
a scrap of soot, then nothing, then unknowable—
You will never know
what dying is like.
The colonel’s granddaughters are still laughing in the backseat,
or they are uncomfortable in the new bodies
the bomb made for them.
Oh, darling, darling, one of them recalled,
you are burning up
with fever—her mother’s cool hand on her forehead,
then the sense of slipping under,
into black sleep. She’s asleep now,
the voice said, turning out the light,
closing the door.
And in every hand, smartphones made footage
of their bodies,
the heaps and twists of metal.
The smoke uploaded the wreckage
to the screenlike sky
where it goes on burning forever—
you will never know if dying is like that,
the same scenes repeated across a larger mind
Is it like a small girl with a high fever asleep in a dark room
recollected for a moment
as the brain closes down?
She’s asleep, the voices say, she is resting.
(My fleeting one, my obliterated device, my bit of pixilated
soot.) Hit PAUSE
and the smoke stops: a black pillar
that weighs the wreckage down.
how much he loved them,
What the colonel had done that day
had troubled his heart,
but the sound of his granddaughters’ laughter
lifted him high into the air
like a scrap of burning paper
blown from the street into the trees.
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Charlie Smith, Bus to Tuxtla