Construction Literary Magazine

Fall 2020

It’s Not Corpses We Burn on Pyres Anymore

It’s Not Corpses We Burn on Pyres Anymore
Photograph via Flickr by Chris Murtagh

Or witches, pleading to whatever gods it took
to raise one nation from the living embers of another.

Or holy men. Or dirty women. The body scraps
even scavengers won’t drag deeper into night.

In hindsight our heroes weren’t so much
the saving from kind. Conquistadors & secret

slave owners. Gunslingers. Lovers hard & wild
as the lands they tamed. Great-grandfathers.

Sometimes America breaks our hearts
& sometimes we’d kill for a chance

to do the breaking. There are no plagues
anymore. No carnations or camphor, masks

overflowing with healing spices. No
rickety carts shopping for the dead.

No need to paint a red cross on our door.
& someone’s cut all the ropes from the trees.

America, let’s just walk these suburban streets
together, hand in hand, in love with nothing

we have to put much love into. Pull from
my mouth a different animal, one without

teeth or howl. Let’s just stack our homes
into a pyre our ancestors would be proud of.

Let it scrape the sky raw. Like prayer. Babel.
Then leave it unlit.