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Love in the Mines of Harlan


I move past you, back into a history

of me: narcissist theory drips from my

lips, a harlequin fountain, for I have been

listening again to the raven’s stories

and taken them literally, dancing

doused in the sort of belief

fools use to brush their teeth:

frail, blind, and cunning.

I am wondering, and then

I am running. I tire of your mystery.

Pale as daylight, I stun your eyes at birth

of night. I become as Aesop’s daughter,

slow my gallop to a stop. Birch trees

form a copse before me, a veil of leaves,

folktale-green. You see me question

your third coming. Still you watch as

I walk down rails robed in morning

glories, a resurrection of violet, of rust

and wood planks blackened by age.

I, too, am dressed in a fine attempt

at Sunday’s best. I aim to follow

any path laid in my way. I take

the trail of tracks through the mouth

of abandoned mineshaft whose cave

walls glint with fillings. My mountains

call out a mourning song as warning,

as a tryst or gift, a late lament. I wail

back blessings as the sky, restless,

dives into another change.

My tunnel and I are buried

beneath a funeral of forest.

Birdsong plays at Echo, exclaims

and chatters with the dead clatter

of picks and chains. I am hollow;

I am wading through the dark again.

In yellow silk, I am a spark, a doomed

canary, clipped and hemmed in

by cage and fate and precious ore.

Stripped of soaring, I sustain myself

with need and rage, with danger, with a swift

breed of bitterness. My throne rises over

a carpet of shit-stained lace.

I hum the news. I pace.

I am a story you chose to stop

reading halfway-through, no matter

how much truth I contained — no matter

my lyric nature, no matter when my language

digs at you like nails into a shoulder blade. I

crave the trip your fingertips take as they turn me;

they rip through my page. Tape me up or

cut me down; rearrange me into a series

of scenes void of cause or epilogue. Make

me a failed charge, a sidewalk that leads only,

absurdly, to an empty lot where

you remember me as a garden.

I will be the thought never caught

by the agile tip of your tongue — every song

you’ve never sung — a bizarre hunger.

I am the rush of drugs through blood.

I am a guitar string never handled,

a star fanning out from bedroom candle.

I am all you love

and refuse to touch.

I search for a pardon, bound

by the bombs of Bloody Harlan. I will

go down like a burning moth:

hysterical and smudged with charcoal.

I will walk until I bleed, until fatigue

drops me to my knees, until

I forget you, darling, or find me.

I am hardened by loss and dust.

I know no better wanderlust.

I cough and sputter as I travel

farther. I breathe in gunpowder and exhale

the screams of murdered miners.

I whisper into your ear the names

of babes I never mothered.

I reach up to smother my flame.


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