by Kay Ulanday Barrett

Everything down at your feet

Everything down at your feet

We do not count names on a wall for memorial
Or pan our pupils to stacked missing persons reports
Or cuss the cops dismissal of another body fallen
in the ghetto.

we do not pray the rosary walking from
station to station, eating only the foods
that remind us of the dead, accepting howled
sounds for voices of ancestors.

We aren’t catholic or don’t make the sign of
the cross at every cemetery we drive past.

But we do feel guilty.

finding passage to our next midterm
paper paragraph, day job, reluctant dentist appointment,
we were jaunted into closed eyes,

this Monday.
we wanted
to put
everything down
at your

it’s not the shrewd news of it,
of the procession of death
from phone call to phone call
war makes far worse

but you/

you made us who
haven’t spoken or look each other in the eye,

call long distance for your message.
“there was no note.”

your face
couldn’t have said the word cliff,

we didn’t see the hurt you drew around yourself,
the lines near your eyes we assumed were from
squinting, not from this.
how many questions do we have?

how come, was it your father’s fists?
did you unlike so many of us, take notice of north
america and look away?
did you decide no matter how temporary,
that the world was too much?
did another passer-by call you faggot mincing
another good day?
was it a trigger, like the way
we have nightmares in lover’s arms
or did you make the decision and
only got so far that

gravity came to answer?
jump or stay?

if you were
to come
pick me up this Friday night,
you’d kiss my cheek in silence

your best feather boa whisping as gallant as a cloud,
ready with your fist
held up to lips like a microphone,
a Madonna song would burst from speakers
and only you could coax the refrain,
out from my mouth.


For Adil