“The Defeated” by Linda Gregg.

I sat at the desk for a while fooling with my hair
and looking at the black birds on the bakery roof.
Pulled the curtain, put my hair back, and said
it’s time to start. Now it’s after three.
You are still on the bus, I guess, looking out
the window. Sleeping. Knowing your defeat
and eating lunch part by part so it will last
the whole journey.

I heard there are women who light candles
and put them in the sand. Wade out in dresses
carrying flowers. Here we have no hope.
The pregnant woman has the abortion and then
refuses to speak. Horses stall in their strength,
whitening patches of air with their breath.
There will be this going on without them.
Dogs bark or five birds fly straight up
to a branch out of reach.

I had warm pumpernickel bread, cheese and chicken.
It is sunny outside. I miss you. My head is tired.
John was nice this morning. Already what I remember
most is the happiness of seeing you. Having tea.
Falling asleep. Waking up with you there awake
in the kitchen. It was like being alive twice.
I’ll try to tell you better when I am stronger.

What does the moth think when the skin begins to split?
Is the air an astonishing pain? I keep seeing the arms
bent. The legs smashed up against the breasts,
with her sex showing. The weak hands clenched.
I see the sad, unused face. Then she starts to stand up
in the opening out. I know ground and trees.
I know air. But then everything else stops
because I don’t know what happens after that.

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