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poetry

George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead”

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A shotgun’s double impact’s

A breeze that catches them

By the shoulder: a quarter turn,

A footstep’s setback,

And then they advance again.

 

Stiff-jointed, raccoon-eyed,

In nightgowns and pinstripe suits—

A six-year-old in soccer cleats—

The attire in which they undied,

They march, arms forward, wrists loose.

 

Temporary birthmarks, black

Soil particles on eyelids, lips—

You almost want to wipe them off—

Still moist from the grave’s deliverance,

Tell you you’re much too close.

 

Rush that precedes headlights

At a subway stop, blasts, then flattens

On your face—you sense remnants

Of meals they did and still must eat—

Is breath that proceeds from tunnels

 

In their chests: vaulted, ribbed,

Chilled as any cathedral’s; nothing’s

So horrific as the heart that’s stilled

Yet keeps insisting: twist of smoke

Above snuffed votive candles.

 

Cold. Burning. Is this what you meant

When you spoke of undying love—

Endless yearning: what sends

Restless freaks in rural Pennsylvania

To keep their resurrected flesh from turning?

 

It did no good to keep them out

With two-by-fours planked

To windows and doors. Pie slice

Interstices, corners, their fingers discovered

And wriggled—radiant—solar—negative

 

Crescents unshining under the tips.

They were already in the house,

In the basement, having turned

An eight year-old to ageless through alchemy

Of saliva and an overbite—no less.

 

One sits now with her back facing

You. You anticipate her turn—

It’s a swivel chair—and confirmation

That on her shoulder, forehead, are not

Marks of rejection, but wounds.

 

And the string in the back of your marionette

Courage is scissored. You advance,

Arms branching for an embrace:

Why was it that you put her away?

Why do you not stop calling her back?

Three Dots