The Arms of Venus de Milos
An empty gesture
we can no more experience
than our ancestors could experience us
deeper than the day could read
beyond the wall of language
in the history of a great pregnancy.
The long departed are within us
as a burden on our fate,
as blood which murmurs
from outside the depths of time
—the impossibility of being-there:
we are forced to choose
a life that is not and should not be our own.
The cardinal, an ancestor bird:
blood that flitters and beaks among the fallen leaves
to take into the body
that nurture themselves
on the power of decay,
a molded tower of twigs rustling in the north wind.
The hard freeze crouches upon the night
and the long memories
reach down into the dark soil
where those who bear
their skeletons outside their lack
see with their breath
the excavation of a woman left behind — Lola
in the chewed birch
as a pitch
to cement instruments of survival.
Lola, this prehistoric datum from the other side of time—
her blue eyes and dark skin—
a forced testimony reanimated and
projected behind the glass screen
of the ethnological exhibition.
Are they prisoners or refugees
these bodies exhumed from the crust,
forced to forget to die?
Eleven Infants of Detroit
they might find us,
into cardboard boxes,
into trash bags
behind the false ceiling
of a former mortuary
into a community center
of the dispossessed).
When the living can no longer speak
neither can the dead speak for us.
— Adam Mahout writes in Denton, Texas. His work appears in The International Human Rights Arts Festival, North Texas Review, and the Dallas Museum of Art.