Fat Qawwals spin a deep circle of praise
with buttery voices, ticking tablas
and the breathing liquid pulse of silver
harmonium: Oh breeze Oh breeze please take
the story of this speck of dust to the sun
up above. A man, swimming among sharks,
a whole fractured night in choking water,
under the shivering bubble of bright stars,
talks himself through it. Around him, beneath
him: three hundred thirty-eight others die.
His wife turns to wax, kissing starfish clinging
to the bottom. His son, gone. When bodies
full of dead air rise to the surface, he grabs two
to use as floats. One under each arm, they buoy
him all night. Come morning, he cuts legs to bits
climbing over coral and crawls onto
a beach, where he’s rescued by passing shrimp
fishermen who do not speak his language.
When a cousin dies, at thirty-four, in summer heat,
her baby plunging off the back of her heart
attack bicycle, riding back from the beach, or
another, at thirty-seven, leukemia, following
my father around the endless corner and down
the stairs, we reach for velvet tourniquets.
Try to stanch the flow. Try, can’t. But every day
these bodies float us on our oily blood
seas. Every day we wake up or we don’t.