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Old-Fashioned

And then she died on us, utterly.
The leg dead, the foot rough.
The bend of the knee glows with emptiness.
And the belly’s warmth turns to ash,
a black sachet filled with down.

Even the cigarette, that meager butterfly,
the joining of lung, poison, and breath,
is merely an inscription on a signboard
that says nothing to passers-by.
The mouth it rules being dead.

And even I, lying on sheets
already musty in late morning,
as disposable as a syringe, soak it up
like a ball of cotton and darken within.

Much as I’d like to brighten up and dye my hair,
to change the conversation’s tone and direction,
we’re dealing with a voice that will remain
deaf to any sound but its own.

Translation of “W starym stylu.” © Edward Pasewicz. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2011 by Benjamin Paloff. All rights reserved.