The dirt, the rust, the anchored ships, the gangways frozen.
That tape recorder, brutal in its accuracy, its stutter—
Slavish to the turns of phrase, of season, slave to winter and the mouth’s snows—
I made up the method of talk so you sounded like a human.

We huddled near the stove, stuffed its raw iron door with kindling.
Moon like radiation through the flat’s window, a larder
Stocked with salted fish and ash cakes for the coming storms.
I thought I was a match you lit with movement until

I learned my body was just a thing burning: oil spill, tire fire, drought-
Ridden suburb. While I wept for loss you spouted reason
From a chair where you tallied the earth’s disasters;
(Insert as in parliament if there was laughter or weeping;

Pack the interview with stage directions.) This ongoing
Negotiation with the living creature, while flames consume
A building full of corpses, the taxidermied smell of turpentine
Rising. Radiance lights the tundra, the oil slick burns like a prayer.

We lived in the meat locker for a year, bottles clanking;
Days staving off extremities’ decay, nights inside the tender rocking,
One hand on the back of my head held me barely into my body.
The river broke and pulled the boulders from their settings.

We tarnished the year with our own stupidity. You kept pushing
At my flesh until you found the node of cruelty—like a hand
Over a breast searching for cancer. Deep in another
Love, I catalog small tragedies beside which we lit the single lamp and read.

(I drag out and thaw love’s corpse slowly in the setting sun, still, until
The blurred, broken and loose contours of your body populate the bed.)

Sasha West

Sasha West’s first book, Failure and I Bury the Body (Harper Perennial), won the National Poetry Series and the Texas Institute of Letters First Book of Poetry Award. She teaches writing in Austin, Texas, where she lives with her husband and daughter.