After you learn every story your mother told you about
prom caught hard in the back of her throat.
After your sister finally tells you what happened the night
you didn’t pick up the phone.
After that party your freshman year of college, when you
drank all the vodka and then threw yourself at that boy
who was so not into you.
After the picture frames, the wine glass, and your vows
lay broken on the floor.
After you remember every racist thing you said as a small
town white teenager. After you realize that no amount of
present day enlightenment will make those words unsaid.
After you accept there are things you will never know
about your father or the man you love. After you accept
that each reminds you of the other. After the night they
met and shook guitar-calloused hands, staring each other
down with matching blue eyes.
After he asks you to marry him, and you say “Not yet.”
After you find your underwear in the dark curves of a
stranger’s sheets and leave before sunrise. After you,
sobbing, confess what you’ve done, and he does not
There is shame. There is fear. And there is this dizzying
Who built the seven gates of Thebes?
The books are filled with names of kings.
Was it the kings who hauled the craggy blocks of stone?
And Babylon, so many times destroyed.
Who built the city up each time? In which of Lima’s houses,
That city glittering with gold, lived those who built it?
In the evening when the Chinese wall was finished
Where did the masons go? Imperial Rome
Is full of arcs of triumph. Who reared them up? Over whom
Did the Caesars triumph? Byzantium lives in song.
Were all her dwellings palaces? And even in Atlantis of the legend
The night the seas rushed in,
The drowning men still bellowed for their slaves.
Young Alexander conquered India.
Caesar beat the Gauls.
Was there not even a cook in his army?
Phillip of Spain wept as his fleet
was sunk and destroyed. Were there no other tears?
Frederick the Great triumphed in the Seven Years War.
Who triumphed with him?
Each page a victory
At whose expense the victory ball?
Every ten years a great man,
Who paid the piper?
So many particulars.
So many questions.