Nothing but a knot of buildings. Diaspora, scattered ashes. Wind whispering in the weeds. Empty yards, machinery disassembled, no one tangled on the wire. Silence. How strange it is, like a remnant, a rumor, the ground deep down still trembling, refusing to forget. Traces still of the storm, how it howled, chaos in the kiln. Shadows, forgotten eyes of assassins. A scatter of stars. The moon dark, distant. Nothing stirring, nothing now but winter, its slow erasure, its cold hands covering everything in snow.
Widowed leaves, stems returning to dust, fallen, as we sometimes suddenly stop on the keen edge of eternity to follow a shooting star, or eye the full face of an ancient moon, lingering, if only for a moment dreaming of a different world, the way saints dream, and martyrs, the way we all will pause with death in the wind, wondering if charred roses, ashen and black, a lifetime’s bouquet, can be brought back to beauty, leaf-life, heavenly hope, to glisten one last time in the pure desert of the heart.
Aglaia, Euphrosyne, Thalia
Dancers by birth, they have come not for beauty or mirth. They do not sing in these shadows. Or blossom. They gather. A soft hand, a moment’s recompense of memory. Forgotten eyes of sorrow. This gift for smoke and ash: not hope, not for such lost souls, but breath, the bright breath of fire, the hallowed heart of gods, they who also know eternal darkness and night.
Isao Matsuo, 701st Air Group, Kamikaze
Honorable parents: Who but children could raise a toast to death so calmly, silent as Samurai in ceremonies of steel? Opening incarnadine like roses on shimmering oil, all crystalline and light, think of me in years to come not as lost at war, but risen. Imagine the glorious day, the scatter of flowers and glass on the fiery skin of the sea. The wind skittering like a whispering soul. Clouds will carry my shadow and birds will remember a brother. A eulogy of rain. But think of today, the still of the sky. The silence. And now, at this hour, the hour of departure, remember: cherry blossoms glisten as they open and fall.
John Valentine teaches philosophy at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia. His poems have appeared in various journals, including The Sewanee Review, The Midwest Quarterly, Southern Poetry Review, The Adirondack Review, and Rock Salt Plum Review. He has had five chapbooks published with Pudding House Publications and one chapbook with Big Table Publishing.