‘Elegy #803’ by Jason Harris


A reporter says on the radio: it’s all gonna burn.
The last fire I touched burnt me within. Brought
down the house. Sent up flocks of black smoke
into the sky like little birds. My parents still
don’t know how I ended up on the other side
of the street. Or how the fire started. Only how

we survived & how it ended: in reduction. In ash
& smoke. In timber & nothing. God, how did we
survive a reduction of home? & my family, God,

what will you tell them of the the things I cannot?
What will you bring me when I tell you of my trans-
gressions? The Holy Qur’an? A chalice of wine?

The parted sea? I have no instructions on forgiving
oneself. Only instructions on how to escape. How
to be the escaped. God, every time I see her in a room,
w/o anyone else in it, I know love is at stake. I often
forget it takes two to make a decision. It takes more
than one element to start a fire & everything within

to sustain it. God, what will you make of me when I
tell you what I have become? Always forgiven, already
subdued. Body, in America, always already rhetorical.
I used to be a good son. A good lover. Now, I am a poet
clawing space into poems w/ a rusted nail to fit grief
into bathtubs filled w/ gold & jasmine. To fit, into angel-

hood, my wrongs & rights. No one in my family knows
the meaning of ghusl. Nor how to bury a child in white.
Nor the weight of five pillars trembling underneath
the weight of a secret. Knowing & not-knowing: a tool
for access. Makes me better than noone. Too many times
I have been told fire cannot fight fire & ever since, I have

been w/o water. I have been w/o God. I have been reduced
to my lowest of lows. Suctioned out like a fetus. To be sperm
& egg: a tool. The goal. To be fetus & forceps: suspension
of the goal. The end. Soon, my love will, in a room full
of people, be underneath the scalpel for less than forty-five
minutes w/ hands, hands she has never held, she is stranger

to, maneuvering metallic instruments inside her womb. I
haven’t asked how this makes her feel. How she thinks she’ll
feel afterward. & I don’t know what to make of it: how my
carelessness reduced her well-being, her body, to mother at 25.
God, do what you will to me when you learn of what com-
prises me. Inside, I am static & white-noise. & God, there were

no alternatives. No better options.

Jason Harris is an educator & poet. He’s an MFA candidate at Cleveland State University. His work has appeared, is forthcoming, in Winter Tangerine, TRACK//FOUR, OCCULUM, Longleaf Review, & others. He is the Managing Editor of BARNHOUSE Journal. He resides in Cleveland, OH. His social media handle is @j_harriswrites

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