Heather Altfeld In the country of fallen things

In the strange city
breathing of sleep
under the chilly lamplights
in the low quiet fog

the dybbuks climbed out
from under all the beds
of all the little children
to kiss their dreaming foreheads

stroking locks of their hair in thanks
and the tiny feathered dybbuks
cracked from the silvery eggs
hidden in nests of birds

uncupped their wings
and dropped down into the dawn
and in the foamy sea they bobbed
safe from the pucker of fishes

and wiggled dry in the tidepools
and dripping and flannelled and winged
they began to turn the huge wheel
of the city, creaking and grinding

until the people clattered from their slumber
to the floor like laundry
and wandered, dizzy, into the streets
as behind them the tenements pressed

and closed tight as marble,
the balconies collapsed
and the gables splintered. And then
in this country of fallen things,

the dybbuks wandered cobbled alleyways
handing pocketfuls of stones to the children
and sheets of instructions to the dead. No longer
could they lie beneath the earth

pretending to sleep.
A sweet linen of order
canopied over things;
the dead washed their shrouds in the rivers;

the dybbuks played five-card brag in the last cafe
and the blue doors all opened wide in devotion
so the furred caps could be thrown to the sky forever
and the heads of the men

could breathe again.


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