Verily, Verily

Sarah Kathryn Moore

 

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life.”
–John 6:47, New Living Translation
 
The ancient skeletons were sacrifices, the experts said: arranged in rows, fingers splayed, upturned, perfect. They were princesses, upheld the experts, laid to rest no doubt below a flower sundial, comforting compass shadow V. On the hilly lawn above the graves we make sun prints the same way as when I was a kid, blue paper its own peculiar color, exposure shapes of keys, coins, flowers, fingers, rings. We know, though, the skeletons were not offerings but acrobats. When the acrobats died it was a brisk bright day, scald of moon clearly visible and cloudless. They went to the temple only to eat red berries and gossip, and when the accidental poison took effect (the girls being young, and foreigners) they fell back astonished, woke up cramped as bats in the death hallway, on their way to entertain the emperor of the underworld. If you listen, you can hear them: Young women of the western world: you cannot predict which of your friends your boyfriend finds pretty. Do not, under any circumstances, ask. The world is full of gorse-heaths and briefcases and winters and whirlpools and power to which you have access and actual danger. You’re a made thing like the ancients; you’ll be uncreated soon enough, pages creeping to a verb. Your bodily reason and wit are unspeakably precious; don’t waste it. Listen: if you want ink from a squid, you can squeeze the squid to death, or you can barter fish to feed its mean little beak. If you want love from a stone, try stroking the stone gently and saying what a good job it’s doing. Look, it doesn’t matter if you’re shouting or dumb with desire; the spring machine will always go off when it’s supposed to. Don’t worry! You have enough love to last you a long, long time. When we are five thousand years old and you are also about five thousand, the difference between our ages will be small.

 

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Sarah Kathryn Moore holds an MFA and a PhD from the University of Washington. Her poems have appeared in City Arts, Okey-Panky, Cutbank, and Pacifica Literary Review. She was a 2015-2016 Made at Hugo House Fellow in Seattle.