The dead lie down in a house
with the bright gut of a missile.
The dead half-climb the wall of the living room,
the hallway. Where there was a girl singing. Listen
to the doorway of the church catch fire.
The dead lie down in a field
which is heathered and screaming.
You ask them to get up. You ask the treeline to lay its dusk
over them. Your prayer stops at the treeline
to watch the evening close.
A child's body is a chorus dragged through
a doorway forever.
A child's body lets God wash it in the surf.
A child's body is the rifle's back-kick on the chin.
Dust reaches for the priest's skirts
as he moves through unspeakable rooms.
In the street the dead begin their half-life.
The silence of a torso. Listen
to their swelling in a cut-open shirt.
The stillness of brown boots, together like wings.
The slack-jawed father's pulse receding,
the tide of him going back and back.
The kitchen jammed jagged into the hallway.
Your prayer is a camera trying to light the rubble. Red
where there was a girl sung through a window.
Now lay your dust down in its shadow,
God washing a body along the sea's edge.
First published in Mid-American Review