I must not rouse
the hungry mouths
in bringing you this letter.
They’re lying all around you,
dozing, snoring lightly, rippling
like the edges of a tattered
Gypsy skirt.

Rodrigo says,
if I disturb a single
eyelash of the ones you
said you’d feed, or rattle
window sashes of a single
lover’s dream, he’ll burn
what I have written, and
I’ll have to start again,
and I said to Rodrigo,
can such a love exist?

He laughed at me.
You call this love?
The tanks are moving in.
They’re lowering the flags.

I tiptoe through
the curves and ranks
of all the sleepers you have
gathered and determine
they are decoys—no,
not even that, they’re eider
down, no substance, past
cardiac disturbances, mere
whispers of the ghosts of the
memories of a climax, and I think,
my God, do these phantoms
really keep you warm?

At last, I reach your ear
pressed to the ground. Your
knees pulled up, fatigue has
built a womb for you. I slide
the sharp edge of the letter
through the space between
the membranes that divide
you from the world we built
together, and I struggle with
the urge to wake you and to
watch you read the list of poets
who’ve petitioned for your freedom,
but the tanks are moving in,
and they’re lowering the flags.

You roll onto your back.
I disappear.


© Elaine Stirling, 2014
Image from the archives
of Spanish Civil War photos