Where did he go? I asked.
Where do the missing ever go?
Imagine silence, the tyrant, growing thick
over the casket lowered into the ground
with nothing resting on
its leather—just the red daybook
and the shirt of Rolling Stones scented still
with pine and cheap cologne, tobacco.
An entire population sunk
to the bottom of the sea. Plastic forks, black boxes.
Daily, filtered light gleams
on the gold teeth of the disappeared. There’s a pile
of nameless bones eroding the soil
under a thousand hungry mouths
of Himalayan blue poppy. And bullet casings
litter the dirt, glimmering like coins. A cloth
that, weighted with ice water, slapped his face
the way a mother would in rage
and grief. The day they buried into earth
the thing without the body,
all the apple blossoms, I heard, floated
back into the gaunt arms of trees.
Aria Aber was raised in Germany, where she was born to Afghan refugees. Her debut, Hard Damage, won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry.
Image: Joseph De Martini, Docks on Sunday, ca. 1941, Metropolitan Museum of Art.