Heaven hadn’t been invented yet.
I stood, or thought I stood, beside my brother,
who still clenched the bloody stone as if
he full expected the pile of meat and rags
to give him further argument. Then
I recognized a broken sandal strap,
and knew myself the corpse. I’d never seen
my own face. Now it burbled up
a pulp like rancid pomegranate seeds.
My brother prayed — for himself, as ever–
and bent to gather fallen branches and stones
to conceal the animal thing. I struck at him,
spat, kicked and howled; all passed over,
insubstantial as a dream of rain.
The carcass only half-buried, blood
seeping through the guilty sand, my brother
ran away, sobbing. I remained.
For a time, the wind amused itself,
first covering and then revealing a hand,
a bit of hair, a bone. The beetles came,
and flies; later, jackals. An acacia
sprouted through my ribs, nourished by
my ruined heart. I laughed, or thought I laughed–
my brother was a gardener, after all.
In this way passed the first few lonesome years.
My brothers spread their seed, and the innocent earth
grew thick with people, some of them murderers.
Since then, I have not lacked for company.
“First Ghost” is from Honeymoon Palsy (Measure Press, 2017).