the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Kate Irving

Black Holes

They number about 40 million,
sucking in everything near them.
No one knows where or who or why

a baby, in 1957, just born, died.
It nearly ended a marriage,
in some ways it did.

Three days old and I never saw him
even take a breath. One tiny breath
might have kept us all

alive. We four would have been five,
an indivisible prime. Count the crimes

against each other—mother, father,
sister, brother—there's no end
to holes, blacker the deeper they go.


The Still Life

Sick to my stomach again last night,
and today my tongue is black as a feral rodent.

I suspect the still life hung in the hall
used the last of the crimson lake. Glutted on reds,

I know when that feeling is coming on, all queasy
and torpid, the breath crushed right out of me.

Nights like these I want it back —
that febrile, breathless moment when the arsonist's son
kindled the dark — it was quick and hurt like hell.



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