“The Wall of Jerusalem Also Is Broken Down, and the Gates Thereof Are Burned with Fire” by Jonathan Weinert

                                Nehemiah 1:3

I held your hand the last time. You looked so lovely
in your trashbag jacket. Your unfed arms showed white
and slender poking out, like lengths of pipe, your hair
a mass of swept-back wires. We paused a moment
on the cliff where half our neighborhood fell in.

Because our rage had dropped away, and all ambition,
we were free to wander, if we wanted to, down
the dried-up streambeds, or clamber up
among the metal cities of the power grid—
dead coils and spires, from which the living charge had fled.

The evening came on so serene, with flocks
of black unhurried birds alighting where they would,
discoloring the shrouds. That man who slumped
against the storefront glass—I won’t forget him—
slept. You let him. Anyway, he couldn’t use our help.

You’d lost your last few labor pounds, and you were proud,
and so was I, of how your skin stretched taut
along your jawline, and the model profile
of your hips. We pushed the empty carriage
in a cellar hole. At last, you had the look.

I held your hand. Your fingers, slim and dry
as shielded wire, trembled with the current
passing through them, trembled as the flameteeth bit
along the rooftops, trembled as the beams shrugged in
and as the maples—green, then smoke, then red—

went up along the landfill’s edge, relinquishing
their warehoused calories. Fire sang
along the useless streets, spat in gardens,
sighed where steeples showed their ribs and ceased.
What a silence we maintained, while blazes hissed

and licked and bled, how patient, gentle, and solicitous,
without support from preachers, books, or therapists!
We listened as the rain came dropping
through the burnt-out trees. The fire loved us, made us safe,
accepted every bit of us, til we were all devoured.

Jonathan WeinertJonathan Weinert is the author of a chapbook, Thirteen Small Apostrophes (Back Pages, 2013), and the collection In the Mode of Disappearance (Nightboat, 2008), winner of the Nightboat Poetry Prize and a finalist for the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. He is co-editor. with Kevin Prufer, of Until Everything Is Continuous Again: American Poets on the Recent Work of W. S. Merwin (WordFarm, 2012), a finalist for a 2012 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award. A recipient of a 2012 Artist’s Fellowship in poetry from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Jonathan lives in Stow, Massachusetts with the poet Amy M. Clark and their son Jonah.