Shrapnel

By | 20 July 2007

The day she decided to wear an explosive belt
equipped with a detonator and a thumb-press button,
and closer to her heart she wore the companion vest
with quilt-size pockets, packed with nails, screws, bolts
and lead balls (smaller than marbles but made like cannons),
was the day I was given the results of my scans
and shown my body as a border of bone and organ
where the fields were infiltrated with cluster bombs,
they spied at least eleven, designed to break the nerves.

This was the day she walked the streets of her world
with reverence for trees, houses, shadows and the day
I walked the streets of my suburb with reverence for trees,
houses, shadows and, as in a dream, we passed each other,
she as my stranger, me as hers, each of us bathing the other
with a familiar salute.

Later that day, we each walked into a popular cafe,
pretended interest in the menu, were pleased to find
the waiter efficiently trained to avert our gaze,
we sucked in the chatter, the gossip, the shoptalk,
the boredom, the romance, the stalker, the loner,
but when she opened her overcoat, I wished
I were there to have zipped it back up, taken her arm,
led her away, back to her suburb, house, room-
where she allows me to take off her coat,
the belt with its canisters, the vest with its cannons,
I help her into her pink nightdress, kiss her forehead,
switch on her lamp then slip back into my night,
wrapping my coat firmly around my body –
if only I could swaddle myself like a baby
to keep me from self-harm.

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