First Circle

It’s dark in here, the dark inside of a man
in the dark. It’s not night. One hears crows
overhead, dawn fowl caws, the shod soles again

treading their sunlit plots above. One grows
dotish-fond of such things. Long live the things,
their ways, their roots pushed goatish & gray

through the skull, in this earth that gaily spins
though one has crossed its smutted green threshold
to reign in a crate. We have done no wrong,

my friends, & yet we find ourselves soiled,
sold, carbonized teeth in a moss-riven jaw.
Once I sat on a stool as my grandmother told

me of heaven. She cleaned fish for our living. I saw
how her rusty black knife unseamed the sunset
in each belly—coral, ochre, carmine, raw,

lice-infested sunsets in a pail. So many nights.
Night in the kitchen shack, night at the crumbling edge
of our milk-pond province, a blade, lone cricket

raving in the lawn.

Srikanth Reddy, "First Circle" from Facts for Visitors. Copyright © 2004 by the Regents of the University of California.  Reprinted by permission of The University of California Press.
Source: Facts for Visitors (University of California Press, 2004)
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