Of Love in the Empire

by Jed Myers


Cloud closed in across a wind-scoured coast
we couldn’t see. Throughout those morning
hours, each inch of sky who knows

a hundred miles, that rough cloth spread itself
in and over us and cancelled all
our shadows with its own. Some light still

seeped down from a sun we wouldn’t see
all day and stained the world stone-blue. I turned
to look at you and saw a bruise-toned mask,

at most a photon thick, veil of an absence
I’d not noticed, whose perfect fit
brought out the sense of lack, which wasn’t so

exotic, though it purpled you a bit,
your blood still tunneling inside your skin.
Your features’ tiny movements weren’t the wind.

You lived, and dread shivered in your lids.
Your eyes’ whites shined a dampened sheen
like the china’s in a curtained tearoom.

Your pupils, gone hard onyx, weren’t the wells
where I’d seen the time that shimmers under
time. My own dimmed life reflected

back, like dumb blinks in polished marble,
and your blinks, mechanical I thought.
We hovered outside our two wired mannequins,

our tissue-matched near-perfect substitutes,
could say our spark-lit animate cadavers
but I won’t, but close to newsprint-gray,

a touch apart as post some fresh offense,
though nothing new had passed between us, just
the cloud-shade. Would we be coming back?

Our lovely fleshy avatars advanced
side by side to cross a street. It wasn’t
all that drab, this, what, our brief retreat,

a foil slipped between us and the light,
this atmospheric shift a consequence
not cause, the cause impossible to sight

as it was lost inside us. This day’s dark
so like a slow eclipse’s, nothing stark,
no clap and strike and flood out of the sky,

we would not be shocked, and anyway
we couldn’t shake ourselves loose of the pall.
From where we stood, we’d see no squadron

lift off the horizon in formation,
climb the skyline’s gaps, then disappear
into the east, where righteous thunder is

to be released. We’d hear no whisper
other than the wind’s gusts and the traffic
picking up toward dusk. We’d catch what sunset

colors reached the spires’ glass, but keep
our tongues behind our teeth. We hardly spoke.
We knew the fires, but saw cloud not smoke.

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