Kate Peper

The Burning Side

            This morning I floated down Broadway
in my car and saw through the window
                       how the body grieves.
            A woman sank to her knees, fell to the curb,
groceries spilling.

If I could take it back—

            I would have stopped the car
—engine running, door jouncing on its hinge—
                       put my hand on her shoulder,
            gathered her soup cans.

That’s one prayer.

            In another, after the door flies open,
I would crouch down and press her sobs
                       into my coat, my arms holding her,
            both of us rocking and neither of us stilled.

I can’t do these things yet—

            But the sky is lightning and there’s the terrible urge
to press everything to my chest.
                       I need to know about the burning sides of things—
            I don’t need to see how the waterfall started,
how it came to fall on the black rocks—