Reprieve At Six A.M.

In torture, the world is reduced to a single room.

— Elaine Scarry, The Body In Pain

 

From the plum tree’s darkness, bird cries
push their bright splinters into my sleep
so that I wake up brushing at my face,
shaking my head. Five miles away

a train howls through the heart of Greensboro,
and in the next room my refrigerator knocks off
with a loud click. And I lie here grateful
for these noises plumbing the night for me,

setting safe limits to the place I’m waking into,
establishing as no more than a dream the dream
of pain splashed on the dirt floor, the chains
hung sharp with rust, the air infested by tiny deaths.

Someone else’s, then, not mine, the busted lip,
the body pinned like a swastika to the wall,
and down the corridor the dusty, wrinkled boots
thudding like a heart, the punctual torturer

already opening the door, the air loud and giddy
with needles chirping into a darkened body,
screaming like birds for a morning
innocent, after all, like any other.