Marianne Boruch

The Book of Before All This
July 22, 2022 Boruch Marianne



They’re retrieving what’s retrievable.
A lens angled to it.
No, it can’t by itself.
From the ground, in PRESS vest, in flak jacket.
Someone at the eyepiece.
Put her aside for the moment.
How many stories up.
I can’t count anymore.
Apartment on apartment.
Leaning, broken off.  A Was.
A ravaged Was.
History is full of holes to look through.
The camera’s perfect aim: two-thirds left of a room.
A man there bent to a small thing.
On the one wall, a photo.
A child in the photo.
Also a woman beneath its shattered glass.
Loving that picture froze her to love for a lifetime.
Wounds are an entry, an exit, aren’t they?
The heart wants and it wants.
After the bombing, a man bent simply toward.
No one but he could explain.
He can’t, his ears ringing.
In tragedy every immediate turns medieval.
It’s never exact.
Forgive me.
The image on my screen bigger not sharper.
Forgive my clicking the know-it-all built into our devices.
He reads a page from–
Which book?  The Book of Before All This.
There’s a practical way to mourn.
It requires circling until everything reminds of.
What’s left of the stairs.
Of how he got there.
The dark matter of one foot after the other.
Burnt blackened steps. Fractured struts. Twisted metal still warm.
Shocked vs. moral vs. stricken vs. silent.
It’s about cellars and hiding and unseen burstings overhead.
If I fast as others starve, is that an equation—
a get-it?  an honor-it?  a remember, remember it?
I turn down the sound, the picture goes louder.
Mothers exhausted beyond blur.
Fathers beyond repair.
Bones running blood in secret.
Our here to their here.
Bomb-gutted diamond of a room.
I ask the no one in me to ask.
The other only same is cold sunlight.
Outside floods the inside.


Marianne Boruch was the Jennifer Jahrling Forese Writer-in-Residence
this past spring at Colby College. Her 11th poetry collection is
Bestiary Dark (Copper Canyon Press, 2021). A fourth
book of essays—Sing by the Burying Ground—will be published
by Northwestern University Press next year.