The centipede you stopped me from crushing
with a stone. We stood there in the rain
and watched it tremble through the Bermuda,
slick and dark: as if some vital organ had leapt
from your chest and found itself without
a destination. When I say rain, I mean
the elliptical spray of the sprinklers outside
your old apartment: even more attuned
to sustaining life than you. They understood
time as cyclical. As for me, I still don’t
understand that centipede. I’ve confused it
for a unit of measurement. To think:
you haven’t measured up to what you might
have been. I mean this literally. Your frame,
shrunken by incremental lacks: four years
of rationed food, a family pried from your grasp.
I will imagine you several inches taller
as I read this and waltz you across the kitchen’s
worn linoleum. You laugh but cannot hear
the tune. Music is feeling, then, not sound.
Your stepfather most likely felt the same.
He hummed your song among the men in winter
who were forced to scrape iron against frozen
leagues of soil. They built a road that led away
from their children, their wives. They weren’t
the ones who named the town at the far end Hope.
Surely, one of them must have laughed?
I’m sorry. I meant this as memorial,
not monument. Your skin grows worse
every day. Your prospects slim in seconds.
I do not know if a centipede has a soul
but it is born with a sting that will outlive it.