Michael Prior

Two Poems


I remember how she rewound the VHS
each time I pleaded to see the Falcon
sail free from a dead star’s fiery pointillism.
Or, how he leaned back, answered, We waited for it to end,
when I asked, What did you do in the camp?
Years later, it’s difficult to say who
first described the midnight funerals,
the way, once stoked, rows of tarpaper shacks roiled
in recollection like sap boiling beneath its grain,
the black hole of a body unbodied by heat.
Neither knew the names of the deceased.
What did they feel, then, watching again and again
as the sky bowed its damp forehead to the flames
to receive a whisper—wind unfurling
birch-bark in striated swathes of white.
For a cheek’s burst capillaries, glaucoma’s blizzard
in an eye, conjure old memories embering
older worlds, constellations burnt out
before we see them. Still, we see them.
I couldn’t wait to unwrap the blistered
cellophane: a foil-lit galaxy’s crystal stippling,
the rock salt that flecked the frozen asphalt
of their South Vancouver home. Patience,
—then a sidereal scroll of names and places
I couldn’t read flashed past their hands
knotted atop the couch cushions—mine
knuckled pallid during that final scene
where dead fathers, living daughters, and unborn sons
wait by the fire for an obsidian mask
to fill with ash. Difficult to say
we watched it again and again.


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