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.