Belfast, 1941

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I did not understand the word bomb until it fell
like a mysterious seed who shoots itself out into the summer air,
assault of red-orange and infinite petals that fall and fall. Bomb
like something beautiful, the name of a firstborn, coal in the engine
of a great ship sailing out into the flat map, a vaccine, a rare form

of crystal, bomb like a loose-leaf page blown from
a notebook, a coin below the tongue for admission
to the next life, a river with a basket and a baby prince
floating on the backs of reeds, wailing. Bomb like
the finches warming claws on an electrical line,

a pipeline fissure that floods the tallest building from
bottom to top in a flash, all gone, like that. Bomb.
My mother’s apron, or a quilt, something comfortable
to hold in the worst sleep, a gypsy house ringing with
rubies and wind chimes tilted by a soft wind. A season’s

end, bomb. A new month, a species, an equator named
and crossed, a continent shifting. Bomb like my hair
twisted back into clips, jewels shining, old treasure
in the webs of a shipyard. I did not understand
why we covered the windows, why everyone shielded

my eyes with the saucers of their palms, rocked me close,
told me prayers in broken English, told me I was witness
to a great change, a history spooled into my drawings,
open fire, percussion of large-scale collapse. Bomb,
a language vanishing into its people, a password

I admired, held gently to the light. Then it dropped.





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