Once Not, Now Broken

Before you ask about my lightning mouth,
understand, I might have been a summer,
though I told like a hand,
though I told like a hammer.
and my demons never were ironic.

I was too possible, like death, like the world isn’t.
Lethargic warrior, you didn’t want an other,
you wanted a desert.

Before you ask about the love-struck bell,
think of all the stairs we had to climb,
the heaviness of iron, but how
once we got it going,
we left the ground, we flew.

Time made me soft around the edges, fog-throated,
an October patois, and though I betrayed you
I never was untrue.

Before you ask about the mercury and needles
understand, I’m talking about weather, how
the wind is always moving on
and snow becomes
salt, burning in my hands.

Your angels were faithless, lines of light dividing
air and dust. Transparent—you, the future,
most of all, your disappointment.

Before you ask what I mean by disappointment
understand, those were butter days,
of heat and sweet corn,
nights of loose horses running through us,
the shine of their silken knees.

– Susan Elbe

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