She came to see him in the safehouse
without biography or autobiography.
I am, she told him, the only one here
who cares whether you continue
to live. I care,
he said, but it was formulaic.
His propensity, not a precondition.
The ground beneath his feet
smelled of everything
other men’s feet
had ever ground into it. It was blank
for all horrors, all aftermaths. A fly
dazzled in a sunbeam
through the windowpane. Like water,
he seemed to say,
& she agreed with him.
I would like water, he repeated. She
pretended not to hear him,
because that was the sort of slippage
that could save him
& suddenly she was not against it.
He could continue to live
if he could continue to mean himself
as poorly as he had just then.
Source: Poetry (March 2009).