Year of the Beetle

In the aftermath, even the detour was boarded up
with screws, and we
were quarantined in church closets
to scratch our new names
on burlap squares with chalk. Mark over
mark over mark. I was Coleoptera now, iridescent
when wet, not to be confused with my sister,
Cleopatra, the lisper, who
tucked her waist-length hair into her gray wool trousers.

Everywhere we looked, dirigibles
blotted out the sky, and we dreamed
of a different war,
perhaps one begun with needles.

Once out, we
stuffed our mouths with what we could:
shreds of gauze, mushroom stalks,
muddy envelopes,
and at night, the daring
among us, ventured out to the air crash
to pull jade bracelets off charred wrists.

The rest of us scavenged differently.
A garter belt that had fallen from the sky,
antennae. Elsewhere,
a bit of red thread, a teacup
covered in tar.
We didn't know what for.
We moved with our arms outstretched
and gathered up whatever looked alive.

*Published in Indiana Review