Can't Say Goodbye

Richard Rowley, for the Pulitzer Center

lights stutter on and off.
the sun rises and sets behind heavy curtains
while thousands of ants slowly inherit this tile and plaster to the desert.

Abbas Ibn Fernas' wings spread like a warning.

in the smooth marble stomach of our abandoned cities,
brush the flies away from the corner of his mouth.

'what kind of men lived and worked in buildings like these?'
'strange to know that they were us.'

the sound of pigeons nesting in the rafters
the smell of rotting teeth in a killer's smile


but you and i can not say goodbye
to the round city,
the river city,
where the fish feed on corpses
and the wells run dry under our feet.

and we can not say goodbye
to the coughing faucets
and the children shuddering with fever,
and the smell of fear and cholera in the water.

we can not say goodbye
to 'the land of rifles and graves'. . .
our rifles are still here
and so is our grave.


scars on my fingers from cuts i can not remember.

39 names for the messenger of inflexible purpose.