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Collaboration

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I am being paraded through the streets with my head shaved,
with no memory of what I have done to deserve this.
 
I run a gauntlet of women who call me slut and whore,
staggering under their fusillade of accusation:
 
What stories did I tell, what lies? What names did I reveal?
What men did I sleep with? What did I do? For what reward?
 
Or in a catacomb deep under Paris they press gloves
of barbed wire on to my bare hands, and when the wounds have healed
 
they point to the brambles left on my palms, saying, Surely
these lines of head and heart and mind are those of a traitor.
 
When you wake I hold you tight, saying, It’s only a dream,
the language of dream has nothing to do with that of life.
 
And as eventually you sink back into the deep well
of sleep, I wonder if by my words I have betrayed you.

Ciaran Carson, “Collaboration” from For All We Know. Copyright © 2008 by Ciaran Carson. Reprinted by permission of Wake Forest University Press.
Source: For All We Know (Wake Forest University Press, 2008)
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Collaboration

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