Kathleen McClung

Cento for a Ceasefire
Lines from Naugatuck River Review, Summer/Fall 2016

We loaded the trucks in a nimbus of snow,
my skin pricked with instinct.
His teeth were gone, lost like Nefertiti.
Where did he come from?
None of us knew.

His orphan bones grew into green
where the cliff swallows have returned to nest
in that quiet way men speak the horrible.
They pound like sap in the oak.
That was before the first war.

Roman soldiers were paid in salt.
I don’t want to write
the salt got inside my veins.
For a stooped man carrying paper bags and a cane
will continue to pace
and cry out in a buried voice
with no hope of being released.

You need someone with a phone. You go,
a hurried and harried librarian—
documents, delays, the smell
above the distant river where Three Mile Island
had been locked with a dozen padlocks.

When you can’t hear me say goodbye
above the trees and a yellow ladder falls,
smuggle yourselves out of the house
like small comets, kicking thick, liquid sky,
like a hotel at the end
of three oceans, weathered
under the pitch pines.