If you were to peer into the mourner's skull

Circling the Center

by Tom Sleigh


If you were to peer into the mourner’s skull where all this feeling is electrical signals firing, what you’d see are nerve fibers,
long strands of tissue that look like dead people’s hair
braided into amulets, lockets
in barrows and old tombs: you’d see little
lightning storms of rising glare,
you’d see it all as pure physical phenomena—nerves lit up on a screen in troughs, spikes,
no interpretation, no allegory, 
no one listening to music in a room the not-there listener sits inside, no solitary midsummer afternoon of watching rain slide down the non-existent pane...

Why does he only come back to her in fragments,
a head floating above a not quite present
body, or just a close up of his hand? 
Why does he keep vanishing into wave-bands

of electrons, staticky flashes
signalling to the brain only his nose,
his right eye, imposed one upon another
in scenes she can’t control, his face shoved in hers

now drifting high up in the clouds? The more
she tries to make him come back, the more
she has to endure him dissolving

into thin continuous dreaming
of the nothing he’s becoming... 
But even as that nothing, he’s still hers.

She sits at her table and weaves

what she can into coil on coil of uneasy narrative
that pushes him farther out into his orbit until

all she can see, all anyone can see, is the braid she makes
from strand on strand of his gradual unravelling.

Excerpted from Circling the Center by Tom Sleigh