Last

Maxine Scates
At dusk the streetlights
stand like beacons to the underworld,
a girl runs toward me beaded with rain
and sweat. I think husk, wheels—
seeds rattle, shake loose and a candle
is held to the egg's red mass she is
too young to see. In Pompeii those bodies
are not bodies but plaster poured
into the cavity where a body once lay,
no less a hand pushing back ash,
no less a woman with her unborn child
twisting for a pocket of air,
the forge, the fire, the glimpsed blade,
a door we close quickly, just as my brother
said Now I know I will die, and I thought
of course and not me in the same second.
We kept driving, arrived at the airport
and the next day our father did die—
aria, the birds rising at the sound
of the explosion and plums, succulent
ashy, burnished. Walking down the Spanish
Steps on a Sunday morning in October,
no one there yet, Keats' window open,
you said Ten or fifteen years from now
when I am gone, come back. You touched
our absence from each other,
the fifteen years ahead you've always had—
when in dreams I am older and you
remain as you were when we first met,
before devotion was returned,
or was it that I let it be—our lives together
suddenly recognizable as if seared pages
fallen from a larger book.

From Undone, published by New Issues Press. Copyright © 2011 by Maxine Scates. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

From Undone, published by New Issues Press. Copyright © 2011 by Maxine Scates. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Maxine Scates