First Last

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like life itself before we know we’re us

In the end it’s air the body wants,
air that won’t come, air that comes too late–
the body wants it as one wants cool water
from a jar midday or to rest a spell
in that shade at the edge of the field
or near the creek that goes on even
when you look away,
moving as air moves through all living things
like life itself before we know we’re us.

If death did kindness
that last body letting go
would return you to the first,
the one you lived in when you knew
the way you’d never know again
the sound of that creek,
the smell of the cornfield in hot rain
or in the cool of the day the smell
of the kitchen garden’s beans and zinnias,
the red dirt you tasted or down the road
creosote on a power line pole
tasting the way electricity must taste–
not exactly better than the dirt
but worth the punishment that always
just seems part of prohibition.

Nothing could touch
the things you carried in your mind.
Even when you were dragging
that kid-sized cotton picking sack,
you could be in a dawdling dream,
feeling cool air on your skin in summer
or throwing sticks for your first dog,
that first friend of your soul
who smelled like biscuits and molasses,
and woke you every morning with the sun.

. . .

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