And I sat with my back to the skies

as I mouthed out a prayer to the winds

and imagined them ghosts; for where I sat, half-anaesthetised,

four children had used to sit, themselves unafraid (although as I speak each sings as he falls,

down, down; and is indifferently bruised) –

and the willows trembled just the same,

and my fucking lungs gave way.

The stream and moss and road and tree –

not less but more romantic now, for now all soft with their silk scars –

fell and fall flat. I cursed at God;

Half sick are we of vulgar printed smiles,

the shadows of long-faded grace,

Not youth, but an ornament,

not an image but an exile, as the face

of a dozen tragedies stares apologetically out. Still

I’m in love with pictures; beauty frozen, curling smoke, all caught on film –

here, where beneath my feet, miles of ruins break; until

daisies, like orphans, are born.

A stain against the sky,

I mourn and haunt this wreck; I recall

a time when we feared words but not death, as we scaled what remained of a century.

You are dust; and gentle you fall, over years of stark fucking wounds,

laments, which are ours to bury.

But home, whenever you are,

yours are the spectral innocents,

and all we are is strangers.

Illustration by Liv Fugger.