At Dawn I Came Across Deborah Paredez


I am not
alone in watching
my body giving up
its truths, the dark
taint of the dye
job giving way
to the gray, the fallen
breasts, the slope and folds
of my mother-marked
belly mound.

I’m not yet
fifty and already I’ve out-
lived some I’ve seen
naked, the lovers I left,
the children I watched
die. I’ve long known how to
look for the bullet left
lodged in the chamber
when unloading the gun.

My aim isn’t
so good nor my vision.
It’s getting harder
and harder to read without
pushing the page farther
from my eyes.

I haven’t seen
Tía since before
the outbreak, only the sign
outside the nursing
home proclaiming
its name: Buena Vida.

In another time
of plague, Galileo observed
the speed of falling
bodies, how, no matter
the differing weight
of two objects, falling
is an equalizing force.
Imagine them, he wrote,
joining together while falling.

Sometimes when you watch
someone die the only
sound you hear is your own
shredded breath. Other
times only their ragged
gasps rending the garment
of this realm.

I watch the circling
hand touch every number,
hear the seconds stacking
themselves into minutes
hours days weeks months,
the teetering years collapsing
behind me, before me.

I’ve had to give up
running since I tore
something in my hip
the same one where
years ago I rested
the baby and years
before that I dipped
and flared on the dancefloor.

My back now gives way
when I bend over to pull
the load of soaked clothes
from the machine. The doctor
says only resistance
and movement will begin
to repair what’s torn.

At the end of the march
I bend toward the ground
with the others kneeling
in silence for eight minutes
forty-six seconds, spinning
hover of helicopter blades
and my daughter’s fidgeting
hands the only sounds I hear.

At the end of his life, half-
blinded by cataracts, Galileo still
found a way to measure
the distance between bodies
scattered across the sky, observed
the ways the moon rocked itself
back and forth as if saying
no against the night.

My daughter watches
her dancing body on the video
she’s made in the living
room. Another brown girl has
filmed us all kneeling. Another
woman’s daughter has taken a cell
phone video of a man as he is
murdered in the street.

All the girls watching.

When we watch, we watch
someone, someone maybe we
love or someone maybe we don’t
even know, someone who is
someone’s grown
child dying under the knee
of another, the sound we hear is his
muddled breath, his crying out
for his mother, long gone and risen
and rocking and rocking and
rocking him still.