Today I am thistle down spreading out from my body on the wind

From this perspective I can contemplate how the gas masks Otto Dix depicted

Resemble the screaming faces of blue monkeys gassed in experiments at Porton Down

Silken, gold-flecked tree-dwellers who thrive on figs and flowers

Matrilineal tree-dwellers who pass their infants from arms to arms

Today I walk almost fearless into the box where they press their palms against a wall of glass

Swallowing absence, our mouths distend

Today I walk almost fearless into the dying that overtakes my cousin, Sweet Arlene

Her tongue jittery now from chemo

As if she’s stammering her way to a new language

Where childhood memories surface

On Firglade Avenue, our grandparents’ house

The trees, in fact, deciduous, fir glade whispering through screens on summer Sundays, the tantes fussing

Steam from Old World dumplings floating up from the tureen

Soon, I’ll be the only keeper of the memories that made a family

I don’t trust myself with that much treasure

But here I am, holding out my arms and smiling

Today the woman who reads my body like script on water made a skullcap with one hand and eased the other under my sacrum

My spine became a flute again

Death floated past like thistle silk

Blue monkeys were sleeping in the trees