Who am I to say that the hawk circling above the deck
wasn’t really the murdered sister of our host,
as she insisted? Who says the dead stay dead,
or even human—for all I know our souls stream out and leap
into the nearest form, manzanita, termite,
light pole, to begin the challenges of figuring out
when to break into blossom, how to find a mate
or glow softly each evening
without a single glass of wine. Our host
was downing grape juice and growing wild-eyed
about the government, unable to stop reliving the day
her sister died on the Kent State Commons
when the Guardsmen turned in unison and fired on the students.
She was right about politics and false narratives
but wrong about the winged creatures swarming
from the eaves as we talked. Those weren’t moths
but they were sort of lovely until we realized
they were busy eating her guest house
on the California coast, in the pleasant weather we were enjoying
thanks to the drought, grateful that smoke from the wildfires
had drifted elsewhere. As she kept on
I felt sympathy leak out of me until all I could think of
was how to get away, to be alone with my lover
and forget about my country’s many crimes,
one of which was killing a college girl. Who, why not,
might have been coasting the thermals all day
looking to survive by killing something else. Who am I to say
a word. It’s not my story. My love and I excused ourselves
and went inside to make dinner. In the nearby cove the breaking waves
endlessly bashed themselves against the rocks.

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