On Allen Ginsberg by John Loengard
The bridge of his nose holds out
Against the fire,
But the nostrils can't be saved.
At least he can't smell
His skin burning, can't taste
With a tongue of ash.
Smoke slips in a noose
Over wire-coil hair
And tightens. One hand--
Thumb claimed by flame--
Clutches at vapor,
Comes away empty.
Four fingers (soon to be three
Then two one none)
Grapple with the rope.
It only moves as smoke moves,
That bright ghostly dance
Unmoved by him.
He could turn his black-rimmed glasses,
His one squinted eye with its pale lashes,
To look out the window
But it's the light that burns him.
From a crack in thick-folded drapes,
Rays radiate onto his temple
Like nuclear fallout, atoms split
And unstable that take out their fury
On the broken world, break it more.
Throat, lips, nose, all smoke.
How could he breathe?
His body transforms
Its state of matter, becomes the air
Becomes the rush of burning
Becomes as free and insubstantial
As the smoke that swallows him.
Sarah Abbott is an MFA candidate and teaching assistant at the University of Kentucky. Her work has previously appeared in Polaris, Fly in the Head, and the anthology Feel It With Your Eyes. She loves traveling as much as coming home.
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