Amy Kinsman

Pillars of Salt

You are twenty years’ old
and speeding along these winding back passages,
nothing but chicken scratches
on the map of the moors,
and my feet are up on your dashboard
as you take the next bend
twice as fast as the speed limit,
your knuckles white against the wheel
and La Bohème drowning out
the sound of the car cutting through the air.
You like opera. Unironically.
And I can feel the humidity of your rage in here,
the anger that lives in the heels of your hands
thumping this faux-leather interior
to the rhythm of a spear against a shield.
There will be no yielding on your battlefields
all things will be avenged, the book of politic
ripped in two between your hands
like yellow pages, everything recorded,
and you become a page torn at the spine
from that great book of genealogy.
And he is still my father,
you remind me.

You tell me what it’s like to be fifteen years’ old
and ready to go to Afghanistan
just to get out of Ashton-under-Lyne
as we sit on the cusp of Hillsborough park’s duck pond
and watch Canada Geese gnash their teeth
at all these smaller birds,
juveniles, you’re saying, and females,
and the swans I suppose we were waiting for
never saw fit to arrive.
So you told me that you loved me
and I know you didn’t realise what you’d said
or where it sounded like a gunshot
through the empty streets, anticipated, dreaded.
All things are fair,
if the Geneva Convention collapses,
no one will be as good as their word
and women and children will get nothing they deserve.
They are your family,
I am saying soundlessly under the sirens
as you take your finger off the trigger,
Have you not heard yourself?

And now you’re telling me what happened
when you were ten years old -
where blame falls, or fails to,
and who cannot claim innocence
through deed or through ignorance
and I am shaking you by the shoulders
and begging for these words to stop tumbling
out of your mouth like a plague of locusts
and cursing the God that earmarked
some for this and
in a moment of blind injustice
saw fit to save a few and damn the rest -
that God who made Moses and Pharaoh both,
who placed each wound flush against your flesh,
who raffled off protection for bloody crosses
painted over the thresholds of these doorways,
who bargained against your childhood,
passed cruelty along the black scores of branches
turned snakes with fangs full of venom
and yanked the ladder just beyond the span of your grasp.

I am extending my hand.
Take it,
please take it,
because I cannot bear to watch
the fate you think was made for you
bite or flood or wreck
around the tree you fell from.

I will become salt.
Nothing was ever your fault.

Amy Kinsman is a poet and playwright living in Sheffield, England. When they are not studying for their MA in Creative Writing at the University of Sheffield, they are associate editor with Three Drops From A Cauldron and a student editor with Route 57. Their work has previously appeared, or is forthcoming, in After the Pause, Picaroon Poetry, Prole, Rust + Moth and Valley Press.

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