The Massive Delayed Violence of Learning Just How Silent Your History Is

—after ‘Canto XIV’ by Robert Rauschenberg

You can try to brush the fire away,

but it’s no use when your hands

are blood and the blood

is gasoline. You grew up

confident; it was only when

your eyes sprouted that you started

to stumble. You grew up unaware

of the desolate field,

littered with black forms like tissue paper,

although it’s surrounded you

all your life. Your blindness

was an accessory, kissed

by street parades and cinema love.

Once you glimpsed the field, you could not return

to those safer places without seeing

yellow stalks bursting up through

dancers’ sneakers, staining those tongues

with pinpricks of red. Or desire

like the burning

bush the grass is watered with,

or musculature waiting, like wheat,

to be blighted.

You grew up unaware

that you live in an inverted forest of headstones,

and once you learned, they became

permanently saturated. You grew up

thinking the worst river

you could cross was the one you

cross alone, but it is so much

worse to wade through

the body of boiling blood

with others by your side,

loving and wasting and melting into the current.

You will never stop seeing your companions

evaporating from bar corners

and wingback chairs,

you will never forget the field

and its growth

and the way it contaminates

every small thing.

You wonder how you could ignore

a space so substantial,

but you know that you grew up blind

because nobody could explain

the vastness of the field

or the way your heart would break

finding empty footprints

in the soil.

RYAN E MOORE is a poet and writer, as well as a student at the Davidson Academy in Reno, Nevada. When not writing, they enjoy trying new foods and spending time with their dog, Libby. Their work has previously appeared in the Body Without Organs journal.