When we turn to smoke and still

Smoke drifts in from somewhere,
thick and August slow.
Outside the trees are rattling bones
and down the street’s a place to die in.
Every man you ever knew who went,
went out on morphine.
Hands rattling.
Match sticks burnt to the quick.
Flames shaking themselves out.

You think about beaches,
about smoke rising from the dunes,
about that dumb poem
about footprints beside you
and never walking lonely.
The sand turns to glass.
Old men are walking underneath you.
Shrugging themselves into bad suits
and back out of them.
Opening and closing boxes.
One paints a target on his chest,
another fires an arrow.
Your feet fall heavy and slow
and the glass falls apart.

You used to think that those
who came before you
were better men than you,
Carved from better wood.
Then the light shifted
and everything old was just old.
You think of the men who came first.
How they cut themselves from timber,
hollowed themselves out,
pressed themselves to the wind
and sang like railroad tornadoes.
Men who split their bones open in droughts
and fed the red inside to cattle worth more
than the land they drank dry.
Men who ground themselves
to paper wrapping powder,
stuffed themselves into blast holes
and blew apart in seconds,
what time had taken eons to bed down.

You think of those old men rattling into the night,
of the timber they were cut from.
You’re plucking grey hairs daily now.
The backs of your hands tell stories
and drop matches in bed.
They shake when you breathe out.
Somewhere inside of you
a fuse is lit and smouldering.

Down the street’s a place to die in.
The trees rattle their bones.
The smoke drifts out to somewhere else.

4 thoughts on “When we turn to smoke and still”

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