I don’t think of the knives
they cut you open with
but of the lamps
in the operating room,
flaying scalpels of light
slicing into your interior
darkness, banishing
those beautiful shadows
that once were heart, were soul,
were bones buried deep
in layered sediments of muscle
that should have gone unmined
forever, and in the hollow
of what it took from you
water will gather
in bottomless reservoirs
cold and black
as a grave.

The roots of the dying
cottonwood gnarled
and bent like your wrists, your
leathery skin deep fissured
as bark, your voice
that rasps like the ragged sky
caught in those brittle branches:

Every choking sandpaper speck of dust
the bullying wind throws in our faces,
each small stone fired deadly
like missiles by tires of pick-up trucks
rocketing past –
a keepsake of something,
a fragment of skin
or hair or feather, flake of mountain,
awns of burnt barley, all of it
alive once, whole once,
and unshattered.