The old woman shuffles, weighed down
by the handbag over her elbow, hunched
as if she carries the heaviest thing inside.
A small fortune rolled in dense brown paper.
Maybe a lifetime’s worth of razorblades. Or
a forgotten language. Words of endless songs.
All her nightmares, gun-shaped. A dead
bird with tiny feathered bones. Neighbors’ whispers.
The plumbago rain of a thousand days.
The secrets she has kept for the deceased,
syllables still round and wet as stones in water.
A handful of dirt from a place that is no longer.
What else will fit? The trees in the swollen dark
woods, and the calls of its night animals.
The swollen night city, and its cries too.
The chant of the ocean at dawn. The calculus
of unkept promises. A pale slipper of a baby
now grown. The kiss of one who will never return.
Her grief. Its infinite shifting shape
like granules of sand, or the convection of flame.
A sickness, which weighs more as it thins.
The knowledge of the number of footsteps
needed to take her home. Her handbag dips—
cracked skin, gold buckle, lips pressed tight.