Audrey DeLong

Laos ‘68

photograph of the man I never knew

Even the rock is breaking down, untold
Years of sediment slipping,
Grating, shaling off to
Lazy-low-floating dust; clinging
To boots, clogging pores,
Gritting in the corners of the eyes, catching
In the throat like an ancient sob.
He is the only living thing here:
The jungle, perhaps, spreads down beneath him,
Its soft rippling skin veils the veins of the human
Earth – the paths and villes and rivers –
In sullen modesty.
He squints down from the high land stripped
Bare, sun slicing a forearm in a
Scalpel-straight line, glistering
Across the top of the scope, gleaming
Against a wedding ring’s brassy promise.
On the day-warmed stone he sits
Immobile, flesh and metal but
Striving to be harder, stiller than the stone itself.

Audrey DeLong lives on Long Island with cats and guns, precisely twice as many of the former as the latter. In her spare time she knits socks she never wears, and writes unsellably banal fantasy novels, though without the sex scenes because writing them makes her all giggly. She is, clearly, not to be encouraged in the creation of poetry. This poem was, unfortunately for all involved, “inspired” (if that’s not too unforgivable a word) by a photograph of a good friend of hers she came across one day.