When the Lethe Drowned Eve’s Children

Gutted by flames, pyres
for houses mock our dark nights with burning
beds. Open the night. Let out the sky.

Fallen earth: we find no stale delight
without hours of darkness.
How hollow, how heavy to fall.
We plunge magnificently. God’s forsaken.
Lead us not into temptation.

A busy throng of voiceless echoes:
we are alone, afraid. We’ve misplaced
our God. No angels here to comfort us
when herds of icewinds shard
our breasts, the fires within our
empty chests extinguishing earth’s stolen

calm. Hourglass of water’s ravishing storm,
our boat had holes before we ever
set sail; there was never a sunset meant
for us trees. While our dust despairs,
our son came down to earth
and failed us. Beating the heart,
heart beating for us. Breathe.

Awake, awake the nightjar’s passed.
Mired in floodwater, we crab-claw
rooftops, makeshift rafts.
Dawn approaches. We cannot know,
will daylight dry our skins or scorn
our burns? Swords of plank stab our sin
and prick us in eerie directions.
The brine we drink to save our lives,
we thirst for more—that toxic gumbo.

Hummingbirds in our ears hum secret songs
we hadn’t remembered we knew. How blue
it’d be, falling back into oblivion
where battalions of charred angels hurricane
against the quiet rain.

Visit Jennifer Givhan online at jennifergivhan.com.