A Brief Ontology of Guilt
No pill could numb the ache
that kept my grandmother awake
each night, the gray fingers
of insomnia lingering
like a dybbuk's hand against her cheek.
I remember weeks
my mother paced the hall,
hammering the ashwood floor,
the sound of slammed and opened drawers
while she looked. . .for what?
A box of bleached letters, a silver locket
clasping pictures of the dead,
their faces smudged, their heads
tiny as stars seen through a telescope.
What did she hope
to find? And I--tattooed inside
my dreams, choking on cyanide--
what use were my night terrors?
In that house speech was rarer
even than relief from pain. We paled with shock,
joints like cracked limestone, knees locked
at acute angles, toes turned
to marble claws. Trauma, a wound burned
in the body
or written there as though we three
were parchment. Even morning's yellow
sickened into jaundice, white
paint reflecting light,
almost medicinal though not
a cure for silence, our eyes bloodshot
with grains of sleep, our skin
translucent as a lampshade, paper-thin.
-Jehanne Dubrow (Mezzo Cammin)