Dust on a tropical breeze
after César Vallejo
Old Saigon will claim me
after I fold my wings, after decades of flight.
Probably on moonday, Lundi, at the grande marché
I will collapse in feathery dust beside the leper at the gate.
I knew this as a child, watching the leper’s outstretched hands
knew I was already half-erased, only a dusty ghost
like the hungry bụi đời who float upon the wind.
I am half Saigon still.
‘She is gone,’ they will murmur, in breathy whispers.
My words will unravel like the silk of cocoons
weaving a sieve to catch the wind.
‘We didn’t mean to hurt her,’ they will say.
‘Who knew she would fall to dust?’
From the gut – the bones, the marrow, the soft & hidden
places. Where who I really am hides, protected. Safe
sequestered behind organs that pulse inflate record
move the seas of blood through the tiniest of tunnels.
Over microscopic bridges without names
Neural pathways crisscross the hidden me, who conceals
her presence in the ocean thrum of inner music, plucked
tendons ligaments the treble strings of artery & vein
each with its own red voice, magnified in community
camouflage for the uncertain
Without – the smile, the warm confidence. The careful
lacquer of manners & skills. All the masks we wear
over our inner lives. Silk and leather and the fey glitter
of carefully polished words. None of it matching
an interior landscape of apocalypse
Britton Gildersleeve’s poetry has appeared previously in Nimrod, Passager, Spoon River, This Land Press, Futures Trading, Lincoln Underground, Atlas Poetica, and Florida Review, and other journals. She has three chapbooks: two from Pudding House, and one from Kattywompus Press. She blogs at https://teaandbreath.com.