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Melissa Barrett

One True Thing

Geologists have attested
that sand does not exist.

Each grain is its own
rock, they say, and

so on. It’s how
I’ve come to feel

about humanity:
unable to fill the columns

of some tidy stratum,
to fit unflinching

in government boxes
that hatch and hatch

down every page.
Tick every one.

Even if the oceans
rolled up over us,

over everything
but one island

where we all lived:
one name one language

one condiment, our hearts
would clutch and stir

in different time signatures,
those tender organs

still lugging, anchored by,
unique tonnage.

O the laziness of humans.
O the deceit of sand.

No Sarah being the same.
Only to the aliens

ogling down, light years away,
must we seem similar.




As if they were the boniest teacups
replete with graves, as if
my hands were pianissimo, a staircase
of sixteenth notes

So I’ve kept them, coffered
and light: held, rubbed
grief-starved—knuckles inchoate

Remember the girl
who went to bed wearing mittens
of Vaseline, the cankered face of her hands
with a bleat that
cracked chintz, far from sleep

How once they bled
How once
they begged: an empty throat, the blank page
and now—what mute twins

You would hardly ever know
they live

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