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DUFFY, Carol Ann

Shooting Stars

After I no longer speak they break our fingers                                    

to salvage my wedding ring. Rebecca Rachel Ruth

Aaron Emmanuel David, stars on all our brows

beneath the gaze of men with guns. Mourn for the daughters,

upright as statues, brave. You would not look at me.                              

You waited for the bullet. Fell. I say, Remember.

Remember these appalling days which make the world

Forever bad. One saw I was alive. Loosened

his belt. My bowels opened in a ragged gape of fear.

Between the gap of corpses I could see a child.                                    

The soldiers laughed. Only a matter of days separate

this from acts of torture now. They shot her in the eye.

How would you prepare to die, on a perfect April evening

with young men gossiping and smoking by the graves?

My bare feet felt the earth and urine trickled                                     

Down my legs until I heard the click. Not yet. A trick.

After immense suffering someone takes tea on the lawn.

After the terrible moans a boy washes his uniform.

After the history lesson children run to their toys the world

turns in its sleep the spades shovel soil Sara Ezra …                   

Sister, if seas part us, do you not consider me?

Tell them I sang the ancient psalms at dusk

inside the wire and strong men wept. Turn thee

unto me with mercy, for I am desolate and lost.       

Warming Her Pearls

for Judith Radstone

Next to my own skin, her pearls. My mistress

bids me wear them, warm them, until evening

when I'll brush her hair. At six, I place them

round her cool, white throat. All day I think of her,

resting in the Yellow Room, contemplating silk

or taffeta, which gown tonight? She fans herself

whilst I work willingly, my slow heat entering

each pearl. Slack on my neck, her rope.

She's beautiful. I dream about her

in my attic bed; picture her dancing

with tall men, puzzled by my faint, persistent scent

beneath her French perfume, her milky stones.

I dust her shoulders with a rabbit's foot,

watch the soft blush seep through her skin

like an indolent sigh. In her looking-glass

my red lips part as though I want to speak.

Full moon. Her carriage brings her home. I see

her every movement in my head.... Undressing,

taking off her jewels, her slim hand reaching

for the case, slipping naked into bed, the way

she always does.... And I lie here awake,

knowing the pearls are cooling even now

in the room where my mistress sleeps. All night

I feel their absence and I burn.