Poem (Coriolanus)

Put down my name and stepped toward
The awful thinking.
Where is wound? Where harm?
I entered the city gates and fought alone.
Wounds? Mouths?
Lethe is a river in a vein —
pulsing through a body that bears a name
others name —
forgetful behind the eyes.
Where is wound? Where harm?
I fought alone
inside the bloody chambers,
weak-walled chambers,
stepping through the door
as they opened, as I knew they’d open,
frantic beneath the arch.
The supplicants, the mendicants —
where are they? Where the ragged
wives clutching to their breasts
babes that suck even as they wail?
Where the empty hands
my mercy fills? Where is mercy?
Where wound? I opened
my hand to drop my sword
but held no sword. Bent down
to drink but found myself
kneeling by the river. My body
pulsed with the tremors in the ground.

The fault existed below me.
It was not me who was the source.
I waited. The blood in my mouth
waited. In my breath
I heard voices muttering as wind
mutters breath through a room.
The distance shouted as it neared
a sword held by an arm wounded
by other arms. Where are eyes
inside the wounds? Where mouths?
He saw me as one sees a river
dividing the fields from the city.
The city was in me. I held out
my hands and looked at the ground.
“Where is mercy?” I spoke at his hand
empty as it struck the ground.
Then he was kneeling. Then I saw his eyes.
Then he spoke. I entered
the city gates and fought alone.
They name me after cities I conquer.
I entered. I fought. The old men
who mourn the dirt they sleep in —
Whose lament in dust names me?
Where are they? Speak. Where are they?
Speak and tell me my name.

We who were speaking were
speaking to the river in the ground.

Dan Beachy-Quick (© 2008)