The steel woman ate the air
with her big red lips,
with her sharp teeth.
She shredded morning air,
and carried a man inside her,
in a clear bubble shell.
The other men touched her
and so she was made property–
She opened herself up
to give birth to annihilation;
that was purpose, good use.
Her son called her
Mother. It didn’t matter.
For a life,
he gave her billows of black dust,
flecks of skin, and bone powder.
He clung to the moisture near her belly
until she was used-up.
He made her immortal,
but only a name.
II. The Children
The children sat on doorsteps.
They rolled toy cars on concrete, hummed,
made noises like traffic, beep-beep,
played at their future selves
as if they could see already.
They willed-away years
the way that children do
but were hopeful
just before the world cracked wide.
A few thought someone took a photograph.
Some thought themselves caught
in a lightning storm,
and most simply longed to crawl back
into their mothers’ wombs.
They sought the places they were
before they were,
and they found them.
III. Lost City
Those who lived along the edges of the city
wore plasticine smiles when they were frozen.
The fathers wore their hair molded into vinyl side-parts
like businessmen, like ventriloquist dummies.
They commuted each morning,
but not too far.
The mothers’ too-white teeth peeked
from between pink lips
that smiled, smiled.
It was always good to smile.
Their hands froze mid-wave
when they watched the silver glimmer,
its mercurial spark turned everything summer.
In an instant, their necks locked
looking up, all.
Some were cut in half, sliced even at their waists
as if with wire, cauterized.
Since there was little blood,
the bodies were mannequins, broken
with pieces scattered.
Later, the scavengers
would lift a torso, an arm
and think it hollow but scream once
they realized the weight.
The citizens, those at the center,
turned to dust.
The city collapsed.
The people turned ash,
and they coated everything gray.
After, it was difficult
to keep it, to keep them
out of their mouths, out of their noses.
Young men and women wiped their chins
and did their best not to think
about what they tasted on their tongues.
Women like the old mother,
before she was the Death mother,
knelt and ripped grass from riverbeds.
They pulled passage with their fingers
until the tips were raw
and their nails hung bloody
by the end of the working day.
They pulled wet clumps of earth
and tossed them to the banks.
spawned life from the muck.
And life dragged itself onto new feet
and began to speak with authority. Of course.
It stood where life began and ended–
where it repeated again and again.
The women slid backwards on their knees
and knew nothing of the times before.
Like them, they birthed passages,
squatted in rosy-stained canals to let blood
feed life hidden below the surface
black and brown.
They had names, and names were important.
They had names, but few remembered
and even fewer would remember
once they were gone,
once it was all gone.
They had names,
and names are invocation.