Making the Beds

by Ann Barnes

If silence is white, it is white
as this sheet or the iced-over
Northwest passage.
The only sound she hears
now is the creaking
of her limbs like the timber
of Franklin’s ship, expanding
and contracting as she dies.
How many dead like this?
Packed in ice, frozen
in place. The word
cold means
nothing and impassable
means only not sinking. Ice fills
cracks, crushing bow and stern
and thoughts of living, loving children.
A mother, sovereignty is swallowed
by soft cheeks, her breath contests
the claim, feral or free.

Sunshine is a mirage, a drip, without melt.
Implausible: she eats canned sardines.
She understands why some eat the dead.
How they live with another’s pain
absorbed into their own. She marks the days
as she makes the bed, the sheets beneath her hands
quiet as sails frozen with snow.

(first appeared in
Constellations vol. 1)