I trace the stitching of clouds in the blue sheet of sky stretching above the long slab of our lives, this autopsy I start with words, toe tagging the people we were.
Zip guns and the zigzag line of clothesline across the East Side sky. Your grandfather riding his bike, humming in Polish, Kishka and a loaf of bread in a bag. Before and after the wars, we are always riding our bikes in the rain.
The only light we have in our lives is the light from broken glass.
Nothing that is whole is art.
That woman I passed waiting in the rain, in her Wendy’s uniform, sitting on an overturned shopping cart someone had wheeled from the Plaza, tired of standing one time too many waiting for the bus.
Scoring in the Safeway parking lot.
The tight noose along the arm, the pock marked wrists. Michele you haunt me lately,
20 years ago, in a East side three flight tenement (we used to walk up three flights of outside stairs to get to your room, to get to how many rooms? We didn’t question anything back then.)
“I think of my mother, the chemo, the endless tests, her pocked arm.”
The difference is when I see a hypodermic I don’t see my childhood
doctor, the visit, the memory of first shots, I see my dead.
I walked by a doorway in Cleveland Heights, an addict or runaway or both, a girl with a nose ring, the wisp of her thick eyebrows, her dirty dreadlocked white girl hair, with the face of someone
I used to know, a name I uttered softly as the rain falling on both our heads.
The shine of a stranger’s hand as she reaches towards me.
The bruises on our elbows and shins.
We are two lanterns burning our own inexhaustible oils.
We are the outstretched autobiography of our razored limbs.
Sean Thomas Dougherty is the author or editor of 13 books including All You Ask for Is Longing: Poems 1994- 2014 (2014 BOA Editions) and Scything Grace (2013 Etruscan Press). Recent poems in North American Review, and Best American Poetry 2014. He works in a pool hall in Erie, PA.